Contraceptive Knowledge in the Mid-19th-Century United States

Contraceptive Knowledge in the Mid-19th-Century United States

December 5, 2019

Circulating Now welcomes guest blogger Donna J. Drucker, MLS, PhD, Senior Advisor, English as the Language of Instruction at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. Here, Dr. Drucker explores the changing availability of knowledge about contraception.

What do pennyroyal, fish skins, horse riding, and ergot of rye have in common? They are all contraceptive methods that have been used for centuries. In preliterate societies, information on regulating pregnancy was likely passed down orally from one generation of women to the next as they helped each other with pregnancies, births, and child spacing. In the mid-nineteenth-century US, however, more and more women were literate and information was more securely captured in print. Examining three mid-nineteenth century medical guides, available online and searchable in the NLM Digital Collections, shows the range of information available to those who could access and read books.


UK – RCOG launches “Better for Women” report

RCOG launches “Better for Women” report
UK women facing widespread barriers to essential healthcare services

RCOG News,
29 November 2019

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is calling for better joined up services, as part of its “Better for Women” report, published today. It emphasises the need for national strategies to meet the needs of girls and women across their life course – from adolescence, to the middle years and later life.

There should also be greater focus on moving the UK away from providing a disease intervention service towards a preventative health service, says the report.


There is no link between abortion and women taking their own lives, study finds

There is no link between abortion and women taking their own lives, study finds
Data from over 520,000 women showed no positive correlation

Moya Lothian-McLean
Nov 22, 2019

Having an abortion does not increase women’s risk of suicide, a new study has found.

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, links between abortion and suicide have been used by legislatures to push for stricter abortion law.

For example, US state South Dakota, has a provision within its abortion law that states physicians must warn women seeking terminations - in writing - about an increased risk of suicide if they go ahead with the procedure.


USA – Most states protect doctors who refuse to do abortions because of religion

Most states protect doctors who refuse to do abortions because of religion

Linda Carroll, Reuters
November 19, 2019

(Reuters Health) – The vast majority of U.S. states have passed laws blocking civil lawsuits that might result from a doctor refusing to perform an abortion or certain other medical procedures because of religious beliefs, a new study shows.

The national survey found that 46 states had laws protecting medical professionals and institutions from being sued for harm to patients related to a refusal to provide services out of conscience, researchers report in JAMA.


USA – Crisis pregnancy centers’ endanger adolescent health, doctors say

Crisis pregnancy centers' endanger adolescent health, doctors say

Carolyn Crist
November 7, 2019

(Reuters Health) – “Crisis pregnancy centers” look and act like healthcare clinics but fail to meet medical and ethical standards, often using biased and inaccurate information to persuade women not to pursue an abortion, say two national doctors’ groups.

The “misinformation” these centers offer typically includes limited options for the next steps of pregnancy and unscientific sexual and reproductive health explanations, according to a joint statement by the Society for Adolescent Health and the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology that was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.


Colombia – Unsafe abortion: women at risk

Unsafe abortion: women at risk

Report 25, September 2019
Women's health, Colombia

Colombia decriminalised abortion in some circumstances in 2006 yet only around 10 per cent of terminations of pregnancies are safely performed in health structures. Unsafe abortions are responsible for some 10 per cent of Colombia's maternal deaths. MSF has published a report in Spanish Aborto no seguro, mujeres en riesgo (Unsafe abortion, women at risk), highlighting the barriers women encounter when seeking to terminate their pregnancies. It is based on information collection during the implementation of our safe abortion service in Colombia in 2017 and 2018.

Executive summary

Unsafe abortion is one of the five leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide, along with postpartum haemorrhage, sepsis, birth complications and hypertensive disorders. Of all these, unsafe abortion is the only one that is completely avoidable.


USA – Medication Abortion and the Changing Abortion Landscape

Medication Abortion and the Changing Abortion Landscape

by Megan K. Donovan
Sept 26, 2019

Medication abortion is a safe and effective method of abortion that can be completed outside of a medical setting—for example, in the comfort and privacy of one’s home. Now, new data from the Guttmacher Institute reveal that even as overall abortion numbers continue to decline, the use of medication abortion in the United States continues to grow. In 2017, the number of early medication abortions provided in clinical settings rose to approximately 340,000, an overall increase of 25% from 2014.

Medication abortion has been transforming the provision of care since it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, and the latest data confirm that it continues to represent an increasingly significant proportion of all U.S. abortions, accounting for 39% in 2017. In fact, it is now the most common method used for abortions up to 10 weeks’ gestation, accounting for 60% of all such abortions in 2017.


U.S. Abortion Rate Continues to Decline, Reaching Historic Low in 2017

U.S. Abortion Rate Continues to Decline, Reaching Historic Low in 2017
Regional and State Disparities in Abortion Access Have Widened

September 18, 2019
News Release, Guttmacher Institute

The U.S. abortion rate dropped to 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 in 2017, the lowest rate recorded since abortion was legalized in 1973 and an 8% decline from 2014, according to a new Guttmacher report by Rachel Jones, Elizabeth Witwer and Jenna Jerman. The number of abortions also declined to 862,320 in 2017, 7% fewer than in 2014. Birthrates declined in almost all states during this period, indicating that fewer people became pregnant, not that more individuals chose or were made to give birth rather than have an abortion.

The Guttmacher Institute’s 18th census of all known abortion-providing facilities in the United States identified 808 clinic facilities providing abortions in 2017, a 2% increase from 2014. However, during that time, longstanding regional and state disparities in abortion access grew even more pronounced: The number of clinics increased in the Northeast (by 16%) and the West (by 4%) and actually decreased in the Midwest (by 6%) and the South (by 9%). In 2017, 89% of U.S. counties did not have a clinic that provided abortion services, and 38% of women of reproductive age lived in these counties.


USA – Data Shows Link Between Support for Abortion Legality and Personal Experience

Data Shows Link Between Support for Abortion Legality and Personal Experience

Molly Igoe, PRRI Staff,

In PRRI’s landmark survey of over 40,000 Americans, “The State of Abortion and Contraception Attitudes in All 50 States: Findings from the 2018 American Values Atlas,” awareness of abortion, either through personal experience or knowing someone with personal experience, is strongly correlated with support for abortion legality. In the survey, just under half (49%) of Americans report that they themselves have had an abortion or know someone who has (or both).

Three in four (75%) Americans who report having had an abortion think it should be legal in all or most cases and 60% who know someone who had an abortion say the same. Americans who do not know anyone who had an abortion are evenly split between supporting and opposing abortion (46%).


Study: 8% of Texas Women Self-Induced Their Abortions

Study: 8% of Texas Women Self-Induced Their Abortions

Thursday September 05, 2019

As many as 8% of Texas women may have self-managed their abortions, according to a new study published in BMC Women’s Health. The study suggests that women may already be pursuing less safe abortions in the wake of increasing abortion restrictions.
Texas Women Are Inducing Their Own Abortions

The authors of the study hypothesized that women might not report self-induced abortions, and that official data on the topic might underestimate the numbers. So they administered surveys to 790 Texas women of reproductive age in 2015. The surveys asked about various health experiences. Self-managed abortion was included in half of the surveys.