Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Little Herstory: banning the "obscenity" of reproductive health  

Here's yet another installment of "A Little Herstory," in hopes that as modern feminists we won't forget where feminism came from, and how many women suffered to make our lives better.

The Comstock Law was enacted in 1873, and made it illegal to send "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail, particularly materials that provided education on birth control, abortions, or STDs. Read an excerpt from the Comstock Law to see how utterly ridiculous it was. When you think of "obscene," do you think of pamphlets on reproductive health? Neither do I.

In 1915, Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood, wrote a response to the Comstock Law, entitled "Comstockery in America." In 1932, Sanger arranged for a shipment of diaphragms to be mailed from Japan to a doctor in New York City. When U.S. customs confiscated the packages, Sanger helped file a lawsuit. In 1936, a federal appeals court ruled that the federal government could not interfere with doctors providing contraception to their patients.

What next?

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