Well, birth control was largely illegal in the United States for much of the 20th century, so maybe one of your questions could be how people gained access to it prior to its legalization, as well as the social stigma surrounding birth control, and how some women were stuck with raising more children than they could handle because of the difficulty in obtaining birth control. Another question you could cover is the nature of abortion procedures prior to its legalization.
Birth control as a movement in the US has had a very uneven relationship to movements for women s rights. Discuss early birth control reform efforts in relationship to issues of gender and class power.
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It was spurred by a backlash against the women s rights movement that reflected anxieties about women deserting their conventional position as mothers, and specializing physicians eager to restrict their competition from irregular practitioners, many of them offering abortion services. Then in 1873 all birth control information was specifically included within the definition of the obscene and was therefore barred form interstate commerce by the federal Comstock Act. Nevertheless the steady decline of the U.S. birthrate in the nineteenth century suggests that some traditional birth-control methods were widely used despite legal prohibition, notably, abortion, coitus interruptus, and douches.
There were several political movements in the nineteenth century for birth control. The first, neo-Malthusianism, appearing in England, sought to increase the standard of living among the poor by reducing births. However, neo-Malthusianism had little support from the United States because of the view that America was under-populated.
The United States had birth-control programs rooted in pre-war reform movement, both secular and religious. Birth control was advocated for several reasons, such as, population control, hereditary disease prevention, hereditary stock improvement, liberation from reproductive drudgery, and sometimes to permit sexual freedom. In the 1820 s neo-Malthusian ideas were integrated into experimental socialism, socialists were soon joined by religious radicals who promoted birth- control, but in different forms. The second Great Awakening had given rise to a perfectionist mode of thought because it gave rise to the idea of a perfect earthly life. Also committed to improving woman s condition and public health generally, these religious socialists rejected contraception as artificial and instead tried to effect birth control by changing the nature of sexual activity itself.
Women s rights advocates shared the view that the discipline and self-control required by non-contraceptive birth control was in itself liberating. By the 1870 s, a flourishing feminist movement transformed this tradition of thought into a new political demand, with the slogan voluntary motherhood. Nineteenth-century feminists continued to oppose contraception and abortion, which, they feared, would further license predatory male sexual aggression. Abstinence was recommended instead. Their proposal and rhetoric have been considered prudish, and there is some truth in this characterization, since they were expressing many women s negative experiences of heterosexual sex; yet viewed in their historic context, they can also be characterized as spokeswomen for women s sexual liberation. They understood that women could not find and defend their own sexual desires until they gained the power to reject men s. At the Free Love edges of the feminist movemnt, some advocated greater sexual experience and pleasure for women, whereas more mainstream women s rights advocates...