In 2005, the organization Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, or ACRJ, published “A New Vision for Advancing Our Movement for Reproductive Health, Reproductive Rights, and Reproductive Justice,” hereafter “A New Vision,” in which the authors explain how reproductive justice is hindered by societal oppressions against women of color. ACRJ, known as Forward Together since 2012, was a founding member of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a collective of organizations founded by people of color that work to advance the reproductive justice movement. In “A New Vision,” the authors elaborate that reproductive justice is about changing the societal structures that produce reproductive oppressions. They assert that a radical transformation is necessary in order to progress toward the establishment of full and equal human rights, reproductive rights, and economic rights to ensure equitable access to healthcare, education, and opportunity.
By demonstrating the struggle for sound standard of care for non-medical reproductive health care providers during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, this project emphasizes what the standards of reproductive health care for abortion and contraception might be like if the organizations that made them so readily available, like Planned Parenthood, were defunded or criminalized in our modern setting.
In April 1994, Elizabeth Raymond, Sven Cnattingius, and John Kiely published “Effects of Maternal Age, Parity, and Smoking on the Risk of Stillbirth” in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, now known as BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The article examines how advanced maternal age, defined as delivery at thirty-five years old or older, cigarette smoking, and nulliparity, or the state of never having given birth, can negatively impact pregnancy. At the time of publication, according to Raymond and colleagues, stillbirths comprised over half of all perinatal, or close to birth, deaths and more than one-third of total fetal and infant deaths in Europe and North America. In the article, Raymond and her coauthors demonstrate how certain risk factors may increase the risk of stillbirth at different stages of pregnancy, which helped set a foundation for future research in interventions to prevent stillbirth.
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. Storer was one of the first physicians to successfully perform a Caesarian section, or the removal of the fetus through a surgical incision, followed by the removal of the woman’s uterus, a procedure which would later be known as Porro’s operation. Storer was also an anti-abortion activist who believed that public attitudes toward abortion were too relaxed and that the laws did not effectively punish what he deemed to be the criminal act of abortion. Historians credit Storer with leading the Physicians’ Crusade Against Abortion, which they consider largely responsible for the increase in laws criminalizing abortion in the late 1800s.
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. He was also one of the first individuals to research alternative methods of cancer treatment and founded the Institut für Experimentelle Krebsforschung (Institute for Experimental Cancer Research), in Heidelberg, Germany. The institute became one of the first hospitals dedicated solely to the study of cancer. Czerny’s development of the breast augmentation and vaginal hysterectomy, as well as his cancer research, helped shape the creation of modern-day surgical procedures.