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William Smellie helped to incorporate scientific medicine into the process of childbirth in eighteenth century Britain. As a male physician practicing in childbirth and female reproductive health (man-midwife), Smellie developed and taught procedures to treat breech fetuses, which occur when a fetus fails to rotate its head towards the birth canal during delivery. Throughout his career, Smellie compiled a wealth of information about female anatomy in his writings. He modified medical technology such as the obstetrical forceps, an instrument used to maneuver the fetus during childbirth.
Harry Hamilton Laughlin helped lead the eugenics
movement in the United States during the early twentieth century.
The US eugenics movement of the early twentieth century sought to
reform the genetic composition of the United States population through
sterilization and other restrictive reproductive measures. Laughlin
worked as superintendent and assistant director of the Eugenics
Research Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold
Spring Harbor, New York, alongside director Charles Davenport.
Horatio Robinson Storer was a surgeon and anti-abortion activist in the 1800s who worked in the field of women’s reproductive health and led the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion in the US. Historians credit Storer as being one of the first physicians to distinguish gynecology, the study of diseases affecting women and their reproductive health, as a separate subject from obstetrics, the study of pregnancy and childbirth.
Vincenz Czerny was a surgeon in the nineteenth century who specialized in cancer and women’s surgical care. Czerny performed one of the first breast augmentations using a reconstruction method to correct asymmetry and disfigurement of a woman’s breasts. Additionally, Czerny improved the safety and efficacy of existing operations, such as the vaginal hysterectomy, which involves the surgical removal of some or all of a woman’s reproductive structures. He contributed to other surgeries involving the esophagus, kidneys, and intestines.
Mary Coffin Ware Dennett advocated for social reform in the United States in the early twentieth century, particularly regarding sex education and women's rights to access contraception. Dennett authored several publications on sex education and birth control laws. She also worked to repeal the Comstock Act, a federal law that made it illegal to distribute obscene materials through the US Postal Services.
No-scalpel vasectomy, or NSV or keyhole vasectomy, is a surgical method of sterilization that involves puncturing the skin of the scrotum to access the vas deferens, a tube that carries spermatozoa, or sperm, from the testes to the penis. The surgeon performing the procedure blocks the flow of sperm through the vas deferens, sterilizing the patient. NSV is a less invasive procedure, as it does not use a scalpel to make a deep cut on sensitive scrotal tissue.
Margaret Higgins Sanger advocated for birth control in the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although people used contraceptives prior to the twentieth century, in the US the 1873 Comstock Act made the distribution of information relating to the use of contraceptives illegal, and similar state-level Comstock laws also classified discussion and dissemination of contraceptives as illegal.
Margaret Goldwater advocated for birth control and reproductive rights in the United States during the twentieth century. Goldwater was a socialite and philanthropist and was married to Barry Goldwater, US Senator from Arizona. She spent much of her life working to further the women's reproductive rights movement, which sought to expand women's legal, social, and physical access to reproductive healthcare, including contraception and abortions.
Barry Morris Goldwater was a Republican Arizona Senator and US presidential candidate in the twentieth-century whose policies supported the women's reproductive rights movement. Goldwater, a businessman and Air Force reservist, transitioned into politics in the 1950s. He helped align popular support for a conservative Republican Party in the 1960s. Throughout his life, he worked to maintain personal liberty and to limit governmental intrusion into citizens' private lives. Goldwater, influenced by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Goldwater, supported women's rights to abortions.