episode 5. Birth Control: The Seventh Wonder

Part 1: 

Before modern medicine, what lengths would you resort to in an attempt to not get pregnant? Well men and women throughout history pushed the limits on what qualified as birth control. In Part 1 of this episode we laugh and joke as we learn the methods of birth control used by people across time and civilizations.  But hey if it works, it works right? Maybe not… After our world tour of birth control, we follow the timeline of the creation of the birth control pill and birth control advocacy in the United States. Do you know the amazing woman who pioneered this section of history? Well join us this week to learn her name, some various ancient birth methods, and modern contraceptive history! After listening, be sure to listen to Part 2 to finish the full episode!

Part 2:

Sorry to cut you off! Hopefully everyone had a good mid-episode break and are refreshed for Part 2. To start off Part 2, we give a teeny tiny history of second wave feminism and the importance of this movement in relation to the birth control pill. Which speaking off, do you know how the pill has affected society and our culture? I promise, it will surprise you. After finishing up the history, we jump headfirst into one of our most complex Feminist Corner discussions yet! Join us as we discuss the implications of the relationship between church & state and how to identify our own biases. Additionally, we talk about how to be an advocate for women’s health rights and share a personal birth control story. What’s your reason for taking birth control?

Check out fromskirtstoscrubs.com under Episode 5 for resources on how to access birth control in your area.

To learn more about why various women take birth control and participate in the #mybirthcontrolreason movement, check out our instragram (@fromskirtstoscrubs) for stories and posts!

Feminist Corner

What is the purpose of medicine and the patient-doctor relationship? Is it to cure and prevent diseases/illness or to improve quality of life, whatever that may mean for each individual patient?

What is your opinion on the relationship of morals and healthcare and how can we be aware of how our own beliefs may play a role in caring for patients?

Birth control is a human right for women. Having access to this healthcare opens so many doors for women.. But that only applies to women with the privilege to access this healthcare, especially today where women across the country just lost their birth control coverage. So for this reason, I want to ask how can we work to advocate for women of all socioeconomic classes, races, etc to have access to this care?

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

In today’s, we will be discussing the history of birth control in two segments:

  • Birth control over the ages
  • Birth control and the second wave feminist movement

Birth control throughout history is very impressive as doctors, healers, scientists, women, etc were developing birth control methods before medical knowledge of the reproductive system or human fertilization was discovered.

  • Sperm wasn’t discovered until the 1600s
  • The human egg wasn’t discovered until the 1800s
  • And female ovulation wasn’t understood until the 1920s 

There were numerous methods of birth control in history, and a large section of them actually seemed to work according to current studies!

  • Herbal methods 
    • Pessaries, devices that you place in the vagina to physically block sperm from the cervix.
    • And oral methods, taking the medication by mouth through chewing or drinking.
    • Civilizations mentioned
      • Egypt
        • Kahun gynecological papyrus created in 1850 BCE is one of the earliest medical texts. This text mentions multiple birth control methods.
      • Greco-Roman
        • Hippocrates recommends drinking copper (very dangerous do not do this).
        • Galen says to eat pomegranate!
        • Soranus says so no sex when you are menstruating.
      • The most common method in both civilizations: drinking juice from Silphion.
  • Pulling – Out
    • Coitus Interruptus 
      • Mentioned in Genesis 38:8-10 of the Christian bible.
      • Grounds for anti-birth control believe within Christianity. 
    • Coitus Obstructus 
      • A popular method in Ancient China.
    • Coitus Reservatus 
      • Also a popular method in Ancient China.
      • Allowed ‘birth control method’ within Christianity.
  • Condoms 
    • There is evidence of existence from 15,000 years ago.
    • They have been made from a variety of materials.
  • Other methods
    • Extended breastfeeding
    • Sponges 
    • Female condoms 
    • Cervical caps 

Modern birth control has changed modern history. The development of the IUD, implant, and birth control pill has been extremely successful. But before these were developed, there was much opposition to birth control.

  • Comstock Act in the 1870s.
  • Lower class women were having babies at an alarming rate and the infant mortality rate was skyrocketing. 

One woman saw a huge problem with the conditions of women in America and their reproductive freedoms.

  • Margaret Sanger coined the term birth control.
  • She opened two clinics, started Planned Parenthood, and funded the birth control pill alongside Katherine McCormick.

The birth control pill was created by scientist Gregory Pincus from the funding of Katherine and Margaret. The FDA approved the pill in 1960. The creation of the pill coincided with second-wave feminism.

  • By 1972, married, unmarried women, and unmarried minors were legally allowed to purchase birth control.

In 2020, the United States Supreme Court passed legislation that allows for businesses and employers to restrict birth control access on religious beliefs. This act has resulted in thousands of women losing access to birth control.

Resources:

Planned Parenthood:  

https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/birth-control

https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/birth-control/facts-birth-control-coverage

https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/birth-control/birth-control-stories#michigan

Supreme Court Ruling 2020:

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/08/what-to-know-about-the-supreme-courts-birth-control-mandate-decision.html

https://theintercept.com/2020/07/09/supreme-court-aca-birth-control-mandate/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-obamacare-birth-control-mandate/2020/07/08/0b38a352-c123-11ea-b4f6-cb39cd8940fb_story.html

Sources:

Andrei, A. (2013, April 12). James Marion Sims’s Treatment of Vesico-Vaginal Fistula | The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/james-marion-simss-treatment-vesico-vaginal-fistula

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Birth Control. (n.d.). Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/birth-control/burwell-v-hobby-lobby

Coaston, J. (2019, May 28). Intersectionality, explained: meet Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination

Crenshaw, Kimberle. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum: Vol. 1989: Iss. 1, Article 8. Available at: http://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/uclf/vol1989/iss1/8

Grady, C. (2018, July 20). The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.vox.com/2018/3/20/16955588/feminism-waves-explained-first-second-third-fourth

Holland, B. (2018, December 4). The ‘Father of Modern Gynecology’ Performed Shocking Experiments on Slaves. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.history.com/news/the-father-of-modern-gynecology-performed-shocking-experiments-on-slaves

New Study Confirms What Many Have Long Believed to be True: Women Use Contraception to Better Achieve Their Life Goals. (2017, February 24). Retrieved July 12, 2020, from https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2012/new-study-confirms-what-many-have-long-believed-be-true-women-use-contraception

Prather, C., Fuller, T. R., Jeffries, W. L., 4th, Marshall, K. J., Howell, A. V., Belyue-Umole, A., & King, W. (2018). Racism, African American Women, and Their Sexual and Reproductive Health: A Review of Historical and Contemporary Evidence and Implications for Health Equity. Health equity, 2(1), 249–259. https://doi.org/10.1089/heq.2017.0045

Stamatakos, M., Sargedi, C., Stasinou, T., & Kontzoglou, K. (2014). Vesicovaginal fistula: diagnosis and management. The Indian journal of surgery, 76(2), 131–136. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12262-012-0787-y

W.H.N. (2015, March 28). Discrimination – A Coat of Many Colors. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://womenshistorynetwork.org/discrimination-a-coat-of-many-colors/

Zhang, S. (2018, April 18). J. Marion Sims, the Gynecologist Who Experimented on Slaves. Retrieved June 16, 2020, from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/04/j-marion-sims/558248/

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