George Richard Tiller, a doctor who performed abortions in Wichita, Kansas, was shot to death on 31 May 2009 by Scott Roeder. As the director of one of only a small number of clinics in the US that performed legal late-term abortions, Tiller was a target for anti-abortion activists. Though Tiller lived and worked in Kansas, his work agitated anti-abortion groups and fueled the controversy surrounding abortion at a national level. Tiller's life and death fueled the abortion debate in the US.
In the fifteen years between the discovery of fetal alcohol syndrome, or FAS, in 1973 and the passage of alcohol beverage warning labels in 1988, FAS transformed from a medical diagnosis between practitioner and pregnant women to a broader societal risk imbued with political and cultural meaning. In this dissertation, I examine how scientific, social, moral, and political narratives dynamically interacted to construct the risk of drinking during pregnancy and the public health response of health warning labels on alcohol.
In “Beyond Menstrual Hygiene: Addressing Vaginal Bleeding Throughout the Life Course in LMICs,” hereafter “Beyond Menstrual Hygiene,” Marni Sommer, Penelope A. Phillips-Howard, Therese Mahon, Sasha Zients, Meredith Jones, and Bethany A. Caruso explored the barriers women experience in managing menstruation and other forms of vaginal bleeding in low and middle-income countries, which the researchers abbreviate to LMICs. The medical journal British Medical Journal Global Health published the article on 27 July 2017. As little literature existed at the time concerning the topic of vaginal bleeding for women in LMICs, Sommer and her team state that they were motivated to assess the topic in order to better understand how issues concerning the health of women and girls are managed in limited-resource contexts. In “Beyond Menstrual Hygiene,” the authors assert that females in LMICs need access to better resources, education, and supplies to manage menstruation.
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. In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, conducted a study in Uganda to test the efficiency of AFRIpads and found that a majority of women and girls studied favored reusable cloth pads. Since then, as of 2021, AFRIpads has expanded to collaborate with other organizations to distribute their reusable cloth pads to women and girls living in African countries. By doing so, AFRIpads has helped introduce a sustainable method for managing menstrual hygiene and teaching menstrual education in low-income countries.
In December 2011, the Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network, or SCRN, published the article “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” in The Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors of the article investigate the causes of stillbirth and possible reasons for the racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities in stillbirth rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, stillbirth is the death of a fetus at twenty or more weeks during pregnancy. “Causes of Death Among Stillbirths” explores the common causes of stillbirth in different racial and ethnic groups, and provides a framework for future research into medical interventions to help reduce racial and ethnic stillbirth disparity.
On 5 April 2018, the documentary Period. End of Sentence. premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. In the documentary, Rayka Zehtabchi, the director of the film, documents the stigma surrounding menstruation in India and follows a group of women in Kathikhera, a rural village in the Hapur district of India, as they manufacture and distribute sanitary pads. A group of high school students at Oakwood High School in Los Angeles, California, raised money to produce the documentary after one student was inspired by her visit to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, New York, which focused on the stigma surrounding menstruation in low-income countries. Period. End of Sentence. draws attention to the obstacles impeding proper menstrual health management in low-income contexts by documenting the women of Kathikhera’s journey to manufacture and sell sanitary pads.
In July 2015, Marni Sommer and colleagues published “Comfortably, Safely, and Without Shame: Defining Menstrual Hygiene Management as a Public Health Issue,” hereafter “Defining MHM,” in American Journal of Public Health. The authors discuss that growing interest in the gender gap in education raised awareness about girls’ obstacles to managing menstruation, especially in low-income countries. Increased focus on MHM pushed menstruation to be redefined as a public issue rather than a private one. That transition made MHM the responsibility of national governments instead of just the responsibility of young girls, because it became more widely recognized that girls could only appropriately manage menstruation if they had access to the necessary resources through public infrastructure. “Defining MHM” outlines how defining MHM as a public health issue brought much-needed attention to the obstacles to MHM young girls face and emphasizes that other underrepresented public health issues could use similar tactics as the MHM movement to gain global attention and funding.
From 1936 to 1945, the Women’s Field Army, hereafter the WFA, educated women in the US on the early symptoms, prevention, and treatment of reproductive cancers. The WFA was a women-led volunteer organization and a branch of, what was then called, the American Society for the Control of Cancer, or ASCC. The WFA, headquartered in New York City, New York, recruited hundreds of thousands of women volunteers across the country. They distributed pamphlets, showed movies, and participated in other grassroots efforts to foster an understanding of reproductive cancers, namely breast and cervical cancer, among other women. The Women’s Field Army aided in reducing the number of cancer-related deaths by spreading cancer prevention awareness and teaching women about their reproductive health and the early detection of cancer, which was one of the first widespread educational resources about reproductive cancers for women.
Menstrual hygiene management, or MHM, is a concept that concerns girls' and women’s access to the appropriate information and resources to manage menstruation. In December 2012, the Joint Monitoring Program, or JMP, was one of the first organizations to define MHM as a global development goal. Since then, other organizations like WaterAid and the United Nations have expanded MHM’s definition to include menstrual education that is biologically accurate and free of taboo and stigma. Many women in low-income countries lack those necessities for MHM due to high prices of menstrual sanitary products, lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and social stigma surrounding menstruation that prevents it from being talked about. However, as more organizations began to frame MHM as an issue of public concern rather than a woman’s private problem, more researchers, organizations, and governmental bodies have begun to address issues at the root of inadequate MHM.
In 2008, Celeste Mergens founded the organization Days for Girls to address obstacles impeding women’s and girls’ access to sustainable hygiene and health education by enlisting volunteers around the world to construct reusable menstrual hygiene products for girls in low-income countries. Mergens founded Days for Girls in the US in 2008 after learning that an orphanage she was working with in Kenya did not have resources for girls to manage their menstrual cycles. She provided those girls with reusable sanitary pads, and later that year, she decided to provide Days for Girls Kits, or DfG Kits, that volunteers from around the world made for women and girls in parts of the world lacking access to menstrual hygiene products. By 2012, Mergens launched chapters across the United States to allow volunteers to hand-sew the DfG Kits, and by 2019, the organization expanded to include chapters in Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Uganda. Days for Girls provides women and girls with education and resources necessary to manage menstruation, which can help reduce the instances of absenteeism for girls in schools and reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases.