Ethics. Research. Community.

The politics of birth control, 1920-1940: the impact of professionals.

International journal of health services : planning, administration, evaluation. 
[Record Source: PubMed]
Before the 1920s, a birth control movement arose in the United States out of socialist, feminist, and other radical groups concerned with women's rights and sexual freedom. After 1920 the birth control movement became gradually transformed into a respectable, nonradical reform cause, the recipient of large grants from big business, with women's rights secondary to an overriding concern with medical health and population control. This transformation was achieved through the professionalization of the birth control movement-that is, its takeover by professional experts, almost all male, in place of the radical amateur women, fighting for their own interests, who initiated it. The article examines two groups of professionals who were particularly influential in this transformation: doctors and academic eugenists. The former made birth control a medical issue, held back the development of popular sex education, and stifled a previously developing feminist approach to women's birth control needs. The later contributed racism to the birth control movement, helping to transform it into a population control movement with racist and anti-feminist overtones. Both groups, while they made contributions to the technology of contraception, simultaneously held back the spread of birth control by transforming the campaign for it from a popular, participatory cause to a professional staff lobbying operation.
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