Category: News

Whose Sperm Counts?

by Lara Freidenfelds

Recently, a Canadian fertility clinic made the news because it refused to allow a white client to be impregnated with sperm from a donor of color. The clinic director told the media, “I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants.”

When I first read this, I felt offended. Personally. My husband and I are different races, and our kids are bi-racial. I guess I had never proclaimed us a “rainbow family,” but ok. The clinic’s decision to avoid creating bi-racial children seemed like a judgment on my family. Like, my family’s not terrible or anything, but as a society we wouldn’t want to go making extra families like mine if we can stick to normal, uni-racial families. Am I a bad mother because I ignored race when I chose my spouse? Would it have been more responsible of me to have my kids with a white father?

Natural Childbirth: A Communist Plot?

By Paula A. Michaels

When All in the Family’s Gloria and Michael Stivic attended childbirth preparation classes in 1975, the Lamaze method seemed as American as apple pie. Each week Mike and Gloria brought into our living rooms the values of the counterculture and second-wave feminism that were redefining middle-class American society. Reflecting these trends in the realm of childbirth, the Lamaze method enjoyed tremendous popularity. Though natural living and feminist empowerment are not so much at the forefront of our collective cultural conversation, four decades later what childbirth scene in an American television show or movie would be complete without the hee-hee-hee-hoo of Lamaze breathing? More surprising than the durability of this iconic image in our cultural landscape is the fact that, the Lamaze method was denounced in the 1950s by the founder of the natural childbirth movement as nothing less than a communist plot.

Prenatal Testing and Counseling: The New Front of the Abortion Wars?

By Ginny Engholm

As everyone who reads this blog (or is on Facebook or Twitter) is by now well aware, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case has dealt yet another powerful blow to women’s right to access contraceptives and manage their own health care, reproductive choices, and bodies. But a recent law—this one in Louisiana and regarding prenatal testing and counseling—poses yet another, but much less recognized, threat to women’s reproductive freedom. In May, Louisiana joined several other states (Massachusetts, Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland) in passing a version of the Down Syndrome Information Act. This measure is part of the pro-information movement, which attempts to balance disparate groups and agendas within the Down syndrome community by bringing together both pro-choice and pro-life Down syndrome advocates in favor of providing women balanced, medically-accurate, and sensitive information about options when faced with a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. The act as intended requires doctors to give appropriate medical information about the diagnosis and the options. It also requires doctors to give referrals to genetic counselors and relevant support services when delivering a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome to a patient.

On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough?: Interpreting Mental Illness

By Mary Elene Wood

A highway patrol officer straddles a woman who lies on her back by the side of a highway. His arm lifts high into the air, then, with what looks like substantial force, he strikes her in the face with his clenched fist. He does this over and over again. Early in July, news programs around the country quickly spread the story of a California Highway Patrol officer caught on videotape violently beating Marlene Pinnock, a 51-year-old homeless, presumably mentally ill, woman, along the side of a freeway in Los Angeles. The California Highway Patrol claimed that the officer was only trying to stop the woman from walking out into traffic, yet journalists across the U.S. decried, in one writer’s words, “the lack of training given to law enforcement officers to handle such people, even though officers all too often are society’s frontline mental health care providers.”

Desertion, Martial Manhood, and Mental Illness: The Case of Sgt. Bergdahl

By Sarah Handley Cousins

Several months ago, when I submitted my first blog post for Nursing Clio, I included a short section about Civil War veterans who had lost their right to a pension because they had deserted the army during the war. But after discussing it with our editors, I decided to remove the section – after all, we thought, desertion isn’t really a current issue, right? I was more than a little surprised when, a few months later, the topic of military desertion became headline news.

Paranoia on the Border: Immigration and Public Health

Like others, I find the growing humanitarian crisis in Texas deeply troubling. The number of minors making this dangerous journey alone, in search of a better life away from violence and poverty, is overwhelming and heart-wrenching, not least because they’ve been met with more hostility than sympathy at the US end of their long trek…. Read more →

A History of Neglect

By Adam Turner

Since as far back as the American Revolution, politicians and the public have welcomed soldiers home from war with promises of cutting edge medical knowledge, comprehensive rehabilitation, and ongoing care as compensation for their service. Just as often, though, these promises have gone unfulfilled in the face of their enormous expense. The history of the veteran’s health system thus has been one of best intentions and poor funding.

Big Berkshire Conference 2014 Report

By Heather Munro Prescott

Last month, I attended the 16th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (aka the Big Berks) at the University of Toronto. For those unfamiliar with this event, it is a triennial research conference held by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians (aka the Little Berks). According to the Little Berks website, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians “formed in 1930 in response to women academics’ sense of professional isolation.” Women historians were allowed to join the American Historical Association (the professional organization for historians in the U.S.), but “were never invited to the ‘smokers,’ the parties, the dinners and the informal gatherings where the leading men of the profession introduced their graduate students to their colleagues and generally shepherded them into history jobs in colleges and universities.”

“Blossoms of Hope”: Our Cultural History of Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Grief

By Ginny Engholm

In a recent Adventures in the Archives post, Adam Turner recounts a moving story of grief and loss he found in Today’s Health of a woman whose daughter was born three months premature due to a hemolytic disease in the 1950’s. In the comments section after the post, blogger Historiann remarks, “I find it fascinating that she writes of her RH baby as being born ‘just three months too soon,’ and very much as a daughter rather than as a fetus or a patient. Even now, a 3-months preemie is still an extremely premature child with no guarantees–it’s interesting to know that some woman in 1950 thought about her daughter in the ways that seem familiar to [how] those of us in the post-Roe, post-ultrasound era think about pregnancy & children.” The commentator’s surprise at this mother’s conception of her fetus as a “daughter,” I think, mirrors a current trend in the feminist scholarship of pregnancy and childbirth that seems to divide cultural ideas around pregnancy, fetuses, and infants into pre- and post-Roe. Furthermore, advances in prenatal technology, particularly the development and increasing use of ultrasound technology, encourage us to imagine that women today have different, and in some ways, more personal relationships with their children still in the womb. And no doubt we do.

Parenting and Disordered Eating: How I am Trying to Break the Pattern

by Krista Heinitz

My blood pressure is amazing. My fridge and pantry are full of whole fruits and vegetables, whole wheats, and a very small amount of processed food. My family regularly hikes, camps, and actively adventures (whenever grad school isn’t consuming me). We are a healthy family. My body shows the after effects of childbirth — my stomach has some loose skin that sags and is rippled with stretch marks. Years of breastfeeding have changed the landscape of my breasts. All of these things, including my strong legs and back that carried my child, create a body I am proud of and happy to have. As I dig into rich, dark earth with my daughter so that we can sow beet seeds, I do not doubt that I am modeling and creating a healthy life for my child.