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Thesis: Dismantling Legal Constraints to Contraception in the 1900s

In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: People, Legal, Reproduction

Transvaginal Ultrasound-Guided Oocyte Retrieval

Transvaginal ultrasound-guided oocyte retrieval, also known as egg retrieval, is a surgical technique used by medical professionals to extract mature eggs directly from the women’s ovaries under the guidance of ultrasound imaging. In 1982, physicians Suzan Lenz and Jorgen Lauritsen at the University of Copenhagen in Copenhagen, Denmark, proposed the technology to improve the egg collection aspect of in vitro fertilization, or IVF. During IVF, a healthcare practitioner must remove mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries to fertilize them with sperm outside of the body.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

“Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification System (POP-Q) - A New Era in Pelvic Prolapse Staging” (2011), by Cristian Persu, Christopher Chapple, Victor Cauni, Stefan Gutue, and Petrisor Geavlete

In 2011, Cristian Persu, Christopher Chapple, Victor Cauni, Stefan Gutue, and Petrisor Geavlete published “Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification System (POP-Q) – A New Era in Pelvic Prolapse Staging,” in the Journal of Medicine and Life. In their article, the authors explain the need for a reliable diagnostic method for describing the state of a pelvic organ prolapse, or a condition that can result from weakness or damage to the muscles that support the pelvic organs, sometimes leading to bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Processes, Reproduction

Charles Benedict Davenport (1866-1944)

Charles Benedict Davenport was an early twentieth-century experimental zoologist. Davenport founded both the Station for Experimental Evolution and the Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. Though he was a talented statistician and skilled scientist, Davenport's scientific achievements are eclipsed by his lasting legacy as the scientific leader of the eugenics movement in the US.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Amniocentesis

Amniocentesis is a test used for prenatal diagnosis of inherited diseases, Rh incompatibility, neural tube defects, and lung maturity. Normally performed during the second trimester of a pregnancy, this invasive procedure allows the detection of health problems in the fetus as early as fifteen weeks gestation. Although amniocentesis does carry some significant risks, the medical community commonly accepts it as a safe and useful procedure.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

National Embryo Donation Center

The National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) is a non-profit organization that was established in 2002 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The organization is endorsed and supported by several Christian-based associations such as the Christian Medical Association, Bethany Christian Services, and Baptist Health Systems. Its goal is to provide embryo donation and embryo adoption services in order to utilize the large number of embryos that are being cryopreserved as a result of infertility procedures and are no longer needed.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

"Effraenatam" (1588), by Pope Sixtus V

"Effraenatam," the brain-child of Pope Sixtus V, was released as a papal bull in the year 1588. Papal bulls are formal declarations issued by the pope of the Roman Catholic Church and are named for their authenticating leaden seals (bullas). This particular document became famous for its official forbiddance of all procured abortions. "Effraenatam," meaning "without restraint," is often regarded as a specific response to increasing rates of prostitution and procured abortions in the Papal States, though this is not discussed in the actual document.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Pregnancy Tests

Throughout history methods involving urine have been a popular way to test for pregnancy. Early ideas ranged from simply observing the color of a woman's urine to the notion that the urine of pregnant women contains special crystals or secretions. Indeed, pregnancy testing can be traced back to 1350 BCE in Ancient Egypt. A written document from the time describes a process in which a woman would urinate on wheat and barley seeds over several days and, depending on which plant grew, both the woman's pregnancy status and the sex of the fetus could be determined.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1910-1939)

From its founding in 1910 until it closed its doors in 1939, the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York was the center of the American Eugenics Movement. Charles Davenport, a geneticist and biologist, founded the ERO, and served as its director until 1934. Under the direction of Davenport and his associate, superintendant Harry H. Laughlin, the influence of the ERO on science and public policy waxed during the early twentieth century until after World War II.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Progestin: Synthetic Progesterone

Progestin is a synthetic form of progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone, which plays an important role in the female reproductive cycle. During the 1950s two types of progestin that were later used in birth control pills were created, norethindrone and norethynodrel. In 1951 Carl Djerassi developed norethindrone at Syntex, S.A. laboratories located in Mexico City, receiving a patent on 1 May 1956. In 1953 Frank Colton developed norethynodrel at G.D. Searle and Company laboratories located in Chicago, receiving a patent on 29 November 1955.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

AFRIpads

In 2010, Sophia and Paul Grinvalds founded the organization AFRIpads in Kampala, Uganda, to provide reusable cloth pads to menstruating women and girls throughout the country. At that time, the Grinvalds wanted to help implement better menstrual health and hygiene in Uganda to encourage women and girls to engage in work and school. While living in Kampala, in 2010, they employed Ugandan women to sew cloth pads daily and sell to others living in the local village.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction, Outreach

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome

Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) is a rare placental disease that can occur at any time during pregnancy involving identical twins. TTTS occurs when there is an unequal distribution of placental blood vessels between fetuses, which leads to a disproportionate supply of blood delivered. This unequal allocation of blood leads to developmental problems in both fetuses that can range in severity depending on the type, direction, and number of interconnected blood vessels.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Reproduction

José Pedro Balmaceda (1948- )

José Pedro Balmaceda was born 22 August 1948 in Santiago, Chile. His mother Juanita owned a women's boutique in the city and his father José was a successful owner of several timber mills. He grew up with five sisters who remained in Santiago all their lives. Balmaceda attended the college preparatory school San Ignatius where he met Sergio Stone, his future partner at the Center for Reproductive Health fertility clinic in the University of California Irvine Medical Center.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Kass v. Kass [Brief] (1998)

In a case of first impression in the state of New York, the highest state court decided that a priori written agreement between progenitors of frozen embryos regarding the disposition of their "pre-zygotes" in the event of divorce is binding. By copying the general result arrived at by the Tennessee Supreme Court in Davis v. Davis in 1992, the New York court magnified the weight of authority in favor of upholding prior written agreements for in vitro fertilization practices.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

Roe v. Wade (1973)

In the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, the US Supreme Court ruled that laws banning abortion violated the US Constitution. The Texas abortion laws, articles 1191–1194, and 1196 of the Texas penal code, made abortion illegal and criminalized those who performed or facilitated the procedure. Prior to Roe v. Wade, most states heavily regulated or banned abortions. The US Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade secured women's rights to terminate pregnancies for any reasons within the first trimester of pregnancy.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction

John Chassar Moir (1900–1977)

John Chassar Moir lived in Scotland during the twentieth century and helped develop techniques to improve the health of pregnant women. Moir helped to discover compounds that doctors could administer to women after childbirth to prevent life-threatening blood loss. Those compounds included the ergot alkaloid called ergometrine, also called ergonovine, and d-lysergic acid beta-propanolamide. Moir tested ergometrine in postpartum patients and documented that it helped prevent or manage postpartum hemorrhage in women.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction, Disorders

“Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs” (2008), by Government Accountability Office

On 23 April 2008, the US Government Accountability Office, or GAO, released a report titled, “Abstinence Education: Assessing the Accuracy and Effectiveness of Federally Funded Programs,” hereafter “Abstinence Education,” in which it investigated the scientific accuracy and effectiveness of abstinence-only education programs sanctioned by individual states and the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. GAO is a government agency whose role is to examine the use of public funds, evaluate federal programs and activities, and provide nonpartisan support to the US Congress.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Reproduction, Publications

Fetal Surgery

Fetal surgeries are a range of medical interventions performed in utero on the developing fetus of a pregnant woman to treat a number of congenital abnormalities. The first documented fetal surgical procedure occurred in 1963 in Auckland, New Zealand when A. William Liley treated fetal hemolytic anemia, or Rh disease, with a blood transfusion.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Ethics, Reproduction

Pope Sixtus V (1520-1590)

Known for dropping a long-held distinction in the Catholic Church between the animated and unanimated fetus, Felice Peretti was born in Grottamare, Italy, in 1521, son of a Dalmatian gardener. In his early years, Peretti worked as a swineherd, but soon became involved in the local Minorite convent in Montalto, where he served as a novice at the age of twelve. He went on to study in Montalto, Ferrara, and Bologna, continuing his devotion to religious life, and in 1547 Peretti was ordained as priest in the city of Siena.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Religion, Reproduction

Katharine McCormick (1876-1967)

Katharine Dexter McCormick, who contributed the majority of funding for the development of the oral contraceptive pill, was born to Josephine and Wirt Dexter on 27 August 1875 in Dexter, Michigan. After growing up in Chicago, Illinois, she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she graduated in 1904 with a BS in biology. That same year, she married Stanley McCormick, the son of Cyrus McCormick, inventor and manufacturer of the mechanized reaper.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics, Reproduction

Humanae Vitae (1968), by Pope Paul VI

The "Humanae Vitae," meaning "Of Human Life" and subtitled "On the Regulation of Birth," was an encyclical promulgated in Rome, Italy, on 25 July 1968 by Pope Paul VI. This encyclical defended and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's stance on family planning and reproductive issues such as abortion, sterilization, and contraception. The document continues to have a controversial reputation today, as its statements regarding birth control strike many Catholics as unreasonable.

Format: Articles

Subject: Religion, Reproduction

Adolescent Family Life Act (1981)

The 1981 Adolescent Family Life Act, or AFLA, is a US federal law that provides federal funding to public and nonprofit private organizations to counsel adolescents to abstain from sex until marriage. AFLA was included under the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, which the US Congress signed into law that same year. Through the AFLA, the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, funded a variety of sex education programs for adolescents to address the social and economic ramifications associated with pregnancy and childbirth among unmarried adolescents.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Outreach, Ethics, Reproduction

Pierre Budin (1846-1907)

Pierre Constant Budin worked in France to improve the lives of newborns and their mothers during the late nineteenth century. Budin stressed the importance of proper nutrition in infants and educated new mothers on breastfeeding and infant care. Budin established infant care facilities and created a nutritional check-up system for infants. Budin helped design early artificial nipples, breast pumps, and incubators for premature newborns. He also began the practice of consulting with new mothers after they gave birth, redefining the roles of obstetricians.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973), by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective

Our Bodies, Ourselves, a succession to a pamphlet of resources pulled from co-ops of women in and around Boston, Massachusetts was published in New York in 1973 by Simon and Schuster. Retitled from the original Women and Their Bodies, Our Bodies, Ourselves was an effort by a group of educated, middle class women to reinforce women's ownership of their bodies. There have been eight editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as sequels such as Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause.

Format: Articles

Subject: Outreach, Reproduction