“The Business of Birth Control,” a 2021 film directed by Abby Epstein and executive produced by Ricki Lake, tells a selective history of contraceptives in the United States and aims to “empower” women (and persons with uteri generally) to make knowledgeable choices about their choice of preventative methods. However, as previous critics of the film… Read more →
Making Medical History: The Sociologist Who Helped Legalize Birth Control
When sociology and economics professor Norman E. Himes published The Medical History of Contraception in 1936, he had made a daring, yet tactical move. At the time, contraception was not, legally speaking, considered a medical matter at all. Under the Comstock Act, which had been in effect since 1873, all literature and devices used for… Read more →
“A Basic Issue of Women’s Liberation”: The Feminist Campaign to Legalize Contraception in 1970s Ireland
On May 22, 1971, forty-seven members of the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement (IWLM) boarded the 8am train from Dublin to Belfast. Their aim was to purchase contraceptives in the north, where contraception was legal under UK law, and to travel back to Dublin with them in order to highlight the hypocrisy of Irish law, which… Read more →
Contraception, Depression, and Who Bears the Burden of Unwelcome Side Effects
I started taking hormonal birth control pills in September 2015. That entire past summer, I had begun to experience some early warning signs of a depressive relapse. As someone who’d battled mental illness throughout my adolescence, I dreaded that possibility intensely. Throughout my freshman year of college, I’d managed to keep depression at bay without… Read more →
Faith, Reproductive Politics and Resistance: A Conversation with the Reverend Joan Bates Forsberg
Reverend Joan Bates Forsberg played a notable role in struggles for contraceptive access in the 1950s and 1960s and abortion access in the 1970s. Although her name regularly appears in historical accounts of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court case that overturned Connecticut’s ban on contraceptives, historians have repeatedly described Forsberg as a minister’s… Read more →
New York, 60 Years Later: Sexual Health and Coming of Age in The Bell Jar and Netflix’s Master of None
Master of None, the new Netflix TV show created by Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (best known for their work on NBC show Parks and Recreation), has created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere. Ansari and Yang’s show is insightful and original, and benefits from its diverse cast of characters and willingness to depict… Read more →
If the IUD is an Abortifacient, Then So Is Chemotherapy and Lunch Meat
When I criticized Hobby Lobby for its attempts to evade the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, a friend of mine thoughtfully replied, “Lara, I don’t think the Hobby Lobby case has anything to do with the daily birth control pill — it is only dealing with not wanting to cover drugs and medical devices that actually “end”… Read more →
Is Contraception “Health Care”? The Hobby Lobby Case
by Lara Freidenfelds
As we wait for the Supreme Court to render a decision on the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I have been pondering the historical relationship between contraception and health care. Is it obvious that contraception should be considered part of “health care?” And would it be possible to decide that it isn’t, but still make it affordable and available? This case seems, to me, to rest largely on whether we think contraception counts as health care. The justices are wary of an outcome that would allow employers to decline to pay for blood transfusions or routine vaccinations, even if an employer might genuinely have religious reservations about those procedures. Those are clearly health care. Contraception, though, seems different. It is prescribed for healthy people, and it does not cure or prevent disease (at least not directly).
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