Birth Control

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    • 00:07

      ASHLEY PARKER: Hi.My name's Ashley Parker.I'm a doctoral candidate at Oregon State University,and I'm studying public policy.So today, I'm going to talk to you a little bit moreabout the topic of birth control in Science and Politics:An A-to-Z Guide to Issues and Controversies.So, to start, let's talk about what

    • 00:28

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: birth control means for the purpose of our discussion.Birth control in this context is goingto refer to methods or behaviors thatare involved in preventing pregnancies, regulatingthe time of pregnancies, and regulating hormones.So, there's a lot of different birth control methods

    • 00:48

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: that could fall under this definition.Barrier methods like condoms, vaginal cups, vaginal sponges.Timing issues, like the rhythm method.You could also be looking at hormonal methods-- rings, IUDs,patches, pills.All of those would fall under the definition of birth control

    • 01:08

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: that we're using.If you want to see the full extensive list,I'm going to refer you back to the chapter for that.So, the early 1800s, you have mainly these barrier methodsin place.You have things like condoms thatare leather or linen, vaginal cups, vaginal sponges, and alsoabstinence and the rhythm method.

    • 01:29

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So these are all methods that areused in the prevention of disease,mainly in relation to prostitution,in the early 1800s.You start to see a consumer market reallytake off between 1844 and 1873 in relation to birth control.You see a lot of consumer goods that are just on the shelvesdeveloped by companies, as well as

    • 01:52

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: the progression of some actual birth control methods thatare more regulated.But then we have the Comstock Laws come into play in 1973.And what this law does is preventthe dissemination of information or the birthcontrol methods themselves.So you see the consumer goods really continue to thrive.

    • 02:15

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: They shift their marketing strategyto be feminine hygiene goods or feminine health,or those types of labels that allow them to continueto produce these goods.But birth control methods which are standalone methodsare really kind of stopped in their tracks,as far as being able to disperse them through the mail,or even sometimes in clinics, because you can't disperse

    • 02:37

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: information about these things.So you see a big struggle there for the movement.And this brings us to Margaret Sanger.So in 1914, Margaret Sanger joins the birth controlmovement as a radical feminist.This is the viewpoint that women shouldbe able to enjoy sex just as much their male counterparts,and not have to worry about conception or becoming

    • 02:59

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: pregnant.And in following this ideal, she writes a pamphlet.And in this pamphlet, she discusses various birth controlmethods, consumer and medical, and dictateshow to use them, as well as their effectiveness.This results in a warrant being issued for her arrest.

    • 03:22

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So she actually flees the country to Europeand ends up in Holland.While she's there, she studies with some Dutch womenand doctors who teach her how to fit diaphragms to women.And this is the knowledge that she brings back with herto the United States in 1916.

    • 03:43

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: At this point, she's able to fit women for these diaphragmsand do these types of things.Now, how does this tie to innovation?Margaret Sanger had nothing to do with the inventionof the diaphragm.It was in 1938, it was created in Germany, made of rubber.And so she had nothing to do with the creation.

    • 04:03

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: Her innovation came in dispersing this method of birthcontrol to American women-- and specifically American marriedwomen, as she really has already alignedwith a more moderate feminist movement at this point.So, she does this illegally.She uses her husband's business to import these diaphragms

    • 04:27

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: from Holland, and also uses the same boxes from his business--and this is her second husband-- but uses the same boxesfrom this business to disperse these diaphragmsthrough the mail.So, she's not only dispersing it through her clinic,but she's actually able to dispersebirth control methods very widely using the mail system.

    • 04:48

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: And that doesn't stop there.Actually, her and the same husbandfund the first American maker of diaphragms in the United Statesin 1925.So Margaret Sanger, in relation to this birth controlmethod of diaphragms, doesn't reallyhave the direct relationship of innovationin terms of creation.But in terms of the way of getting it to American women

    • 05:09

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: and dispersing it in the United States,she was very innovative.With reference to more direct influence on a birth controlmethod, Margaret Sanger did this as well.In the 1940s and 1950s, Margaret Sangerwas personally funding research ona hormonal contraceptive pill.And upon her husband's death, the McCormick heiress

    • 05:30

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: also joins the birth control movementand throws a lot of funding, around $2 million,behind the development of the hormone birth control pill,in terms of testing and trials and all of the proceduresnecessary to push the FDA for approval.And in 1960, they are approved.

    • 05:52

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: The FDA approves the Enovid contraceptive hormone pill,which is the first of its kind.So, there's an example where the movement was reallyinvolved in direct innovation of a birth control product.And we actually see that again a little laterin the population movement.But it's worth noting that, just in the chapter

    • 06:12

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: we dictate, the programs and movements the birth controlmovement aligns itself with as it progresses.So after Margaret Sanger's fitting and dispersalof diaphragms, but before her researchinto oral contraception, the birth control movement

    • 06:33

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: aligns with both the eugenics program and the populationmovement.The eugenics program is fairly infamous for targetingAfrican American populations, and particularly women,for sterilization.Now, our surgical techniques havegotten a lot better over the years,but the process for sterilizing women is still very similar.

    • 06:54

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: And so you don't see a lot of innovation come outof this period.So we're not going to really focus on eugenicsas a source of innovation.But the idea behind eugenics was population controland less government dependence.And you kind of see this ideal carried into the populationmovement.

    • 07:14

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: It just has more of a global focus.So the population movement has the thoughtthat as a global community, if we continue to grow at the ratethat we do, we will outpace our resources.In terms of food, things we need for heat, water, all of that,we won't be able to keep up.

    • 07:35

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: The resources won't be able to keep up.So they focus on mainly Africa and India,and look for ways to help them slow their population growth.And they really do this with utilization of birth controlmethods, in particular IUDs.So, in doing this, you have a lot

    • 07:56

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: of independent wealthy investors.John D. Rockefeller III, Hugh Moore, the Pillsbury heir,and the Ford Foundation are all involved in this movementand funding this usage of IUDs at a large scalein these other countries.This starts to become expensive.At this point, IUDs are purely made of metal,

    • 08:19

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: and they are a larger design.So, with the research and innovationthat moves forward here, you get a plastic IUD, whichis a lot cheaper to produce.And you also get a different shape,which uses less material.You end up with a T instead of a ring.And so these are things we still use today.Plastic IUDs are the most common.

    • 08:40

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So it's definitely more of an examplewhere a birth control movement's involvement in innovationof a birth control method.So, these are the real big examples

    • 09:02

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: of where you see the movement involved in birth control.But there are several birth control methodsthat really evolved outside of the United States birth controlmovement.The most basic example is actually male condoms.So, in 1943, male condoms are mass produced using rubber.That process has been made public,

    • 09:23

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: vulcanization of rubber, and so condoms are available.However, you have programs like the American Social HygieneAssociation, which are very anti-condom use,feeling that individuals should sufferthe consequences if they're going to engagein illicit sexual activity.

    • 09:45

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: And so you don't see this adopted by the United Statesgovernment until after World War I.And that's really because we send soldiers into World War Iwithout condoms.They go overseas, and they come back and the rate of diseasejust skyrockets.Individuals are getting all kinds of diseases

    • 10:06

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: that-- we just see this huge surge.And so after this, in 1918, condoms become legal.And also, you see in the Second World War,there's a large campaign for condomsto be used by soldiers, just tryingto get them to utilize them.

    • 10:26

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: And so it becomes a much more mainstream method,in terms of preventing disease, that you see.Another one that we really don't seebeing an issue of contention in the United Statesis vaginal sponges.It was used by Marie Stopes in the early 1900sin the British birth control movement.But you just don't ever really seeit being an issue in the United States.

    • 10:48

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So it's not something that we really innovated onuntil the '80s and '90s.But less tied to the movement than diaphragmsand those types of methods.So a last one that's pretty interestingis actually emergency contraception.And it's interesting because in its early phases,it starts off as more of a consumer product that's

    • 11:10

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: really ineffective and not attached to the movement.And as time progresses, it becomes effective, and thenbecomes attached into the movement.So, initially, emergency contraception is douching.That's the original method.It's very ineffective for reducing pregnancies,

    • 11:34

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: and it was also very unsafe.The infamous example would be usingLysol, which we would use to clean our counters.That was marketed as a consumer good,as a douching agent for women.So, obviously, a lot of interesting side effectsand things of that nature.So douching is really the initial thing,

    • 11:54

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: and it's never attached to the movement.It's really a consumer good.It's not until the 1970s when doctorsstart using hormonal contraception, whichwas invented in the 1960s-- so, using hormone pills after sex,and finding that that really does prevent conception.And then in 1998, you get the first FDA-approved emergency

    • 12:17

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: contraceptive pill, and in 1999, youget Plan B, which we still have.And it is the most common that you're going to run into today.So towards the end, you do see that the birth control movementis tied to these methods in access, tryingto get everyone to have access to those methods.

    • 12:39

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So, that really covers how innovation and the birthcontrol movement are tied together historically.So now we're going to turn to look forward.What are significant research goalsthat have been met recently, or that we're trying to meet?And we're going to take this in two stepsbecause this is science and politics.

    • 12:59

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So the first part is going to be the science, wherewe are seeing a couple of developmentsin terms of a hormonal IUD, which we do have.That would be something like a Mirena.And so this not only prevents pregnancy on another level,it also allows for hormonal regulation

    • 13:20

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: without having to take a pill or something more monthly, justmore frequency.So it's a more gentle, easier, carefree approach for womenregarding hormonal regulation.And it eliminates a lot of cycles for womenand still has the convenience of an IUD.

    • 13:40

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: A future research prospect is male oral contraception,which is just going to give men a little more controlover their reproduction.And all of these types of methodsare researched using biochemistry and medicalexperiments in medical labs.So the political side of all of thisis, every time we come up with these methods,

    • 14:03

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: we decide who has access to them and the lawsregarding their usage.And all of these things always arestudied using social science and political science.Some examples would be sex education, the limitingor restructuring of federal funding,the gag rule, and the Affordable Care Act and the Hobby Lobby

    • 14:23

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: decision.All of these things are being studied,socially and politically, using quantitative or qualitativeresearch methodologies.So, how is birth control practical to us as a societyand as individuals?And how is that knowledge important?

    • 14:44

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: I would say that both on an individualand the societal level, birth controlis important for several reasons.Preventing disease, which has been marketed for a very longtime, historically.Preventing unwanted pregnancies.As well as just increasing public health.

    • 15:05

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: Again, it ties in with the othersof disease and pregnancy, but hormonal regulationand other issues that it can helpalleviate for women or men.And so that makes it practical and useful in everyday life.But birth controls is not a topic that really stands alone.As we're talking about how it interlinkswith all these other topics, there's

    • 15:28

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: a few that specifically stand out.The most obvious would be abortion.This is for several reasons-- clinical provisionof both of these services.So they're usually tied together in location.The funding related to birth control and abortionis usually tied together.

    • 15:51

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: So they are very close in that regard in terms of policy.And these are also just both topics thatrevolve around reproduction.One is just pre-conception and one is post.So that all ties these topics together.Just as we've already discussed, birth control

    • 16:12

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: relates to public health, medical care,and it relates to policy.Whenever we're deciding who has access and under whatcircumstances and what laws we'regoing to put in place to regulate that,policy is involved.So, in conclusion, birth control is a topicthat has a deep history in our country

    • 16:34

      ASHLEY PARKER [continued]: and that we interact with every day.And so I hope that this has been helpful and interesting to youto accompany your birth control chapter in your book, Scienceand Politics: An A-to-Z Guide to Issues and Controversies.And I wish all of you the best of luck in your future studies.

Birth Control

View Segments Segment :


Ashley Parker discusses the history and current state of birth control in the United States. From the time of the Comstock laws and Margaret Sanger, innovation and government regulation have been constant push-and-pull factors in the development of birth control methods.

Birth Control

Ashley Parker discusses the history and current state of birth control in the United States. From the time of the Comstock laws and Margaret Sanger, innovation and government regulation have been constant push-and-pull factors in the development of birth control methods.

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