Category Archives: Birth Control

Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (F.A.C.E.) Act – est. 1994

By the 1990s, controversy and battle of abortion and contraception politics have been building up for centuries. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, prohibiting the force, threat of force, or physical obstruction from an individual providing or receiving abortions.

This U.S. law prohibits the following:

  1. The use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any persons who is obtaining reproductive health services or providing reproductive health services
  2. The use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person who is exercising or trying to exercise their First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship
  3. The intentional damage or destruction of a reproductive health care facility or a place of worship

The following are not prohibited: – because of the First Amendment

  • Protesting outside of clinics
  • Distributing literature
  • Carrying signs
  • Shouting (as long as no threats are made)
  • Singing hymns

The F.A.C.E. act is not as commonly known, but it has had a great significant role in our freedoms to organize publicly and peacefully. With the subject of abortion and contraception becoming increasingly controversial, it became time to settle a law regarding the organization/protest of people in the year 1994.

F.A.C.E. helped make clear of the legalities allowing individuals their freedom of both speech and access to abortion. It was in efforts to lessen the amounts of violence that had previously taken place in the decades and centuries prior circulating around the abortion controversy. The F.A.C.E. Act fell on both sides of the controversy, helping both ends and further organizing the two halves in a more peaceful manner.

According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), between the years 1977 and 2009, “there have been at least 9 murders, 17 attempted murders, 406 death threats, 179 incidents of assault or battery, and 5 kidnappings committed against abortion providers. In addition, since 1977 in the United States and Canada, property crimes committed against abortion providers have included 41 bombings, 175 arsons, 96 attempted bombings or arsons, 692 bomb threats, 1993 incidents of trespassing, 1400 incidents of vandalism, and 100 attacks with butyric acid (stink bombs).” It is crimes like these, and the amounts of which there are, that make the F.A.C.E. Acts valid.

While combining the protection of clinics, physicians, and patients along with religious freedoms, both left and right wing politics are compromised.

Sources:

  • “Civil Rights Division Freedom of Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and Places of Religious Worship.” Civil Rights Division Freedom of Access to Reproductive Health Clinics and Places of Religious Worship. United States Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014. <http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/face.php&gt;.
  • “NAF Violence and Disruption Statistics: Incidents of Violence & Disruption Against Abortion Providers in the U.S. & Canada.” Apr 2009. National Abortion Federation, Web. 22 Nov 2014.

Margaret Sanger & the 1920s Birth Control Movement

Photo: Margaret Sanger

In 1921, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, now known as Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is also known as the founder of modern day birth control and lead several roles in the 1920’s Birth Control and Reproductive Rights Movements.

The American Birth Control League held the following main principles:

We hold that children should be:

  1. Conceived in love;
  2. Born the mother’s conscious desire;
  3. And only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health

Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied.

This notable woman sacrificed a lot to stand up for women and what she believed in. In 1913 she wrote a column on sexual education in the local newspaper titled What Every Mother Should Know and What Every Girl Should Know, considered both an advice and informative column. Because of the Comstock laws established in 1873, she was jailed for her writings and beliefs and the story went viral, as did her popularity.

Considering the 1920s as a time of economic growth and success, there also laid the fact that the country had just recently came out of World War I. While the nation was still in the process of healing from war, there was a great amount of disapproval for many women’s rights movements in these years. Although Sanger and many other reproductive and women’s rights activists faced that amount of scorn, it was their famous courage and ambition that kept them and their supporters moving forward.

Sanger had her own beliefs and views about abortion in America that can be a bit complex. While she acknowledged it justifiable in certain cases, she also believed it should be a last resort and should be avoided as much as possible. Her main views and legacy at the time were directed towards contraception, not so much abortion. In one of her books Women and the New Race, she wrote, “while there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.” (Sanger)

And so although her view on abortion varied by situation, her push for the importance of contraception and sexual health gave birth to future reproductive justice ideas. Although the nation had just come out of the first Great War, she continued to advocate for women, contraception, and the rights of knowledge regarding the subject.

Sources:

  • “Birth control: What it is, How it works, What it will do”, The Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference, November 11, 12, 1921, pp. 207–8.
  • Margaret Sanger (1920). “Contraceptives or Abortion?”. Woman and the New Race.
    http://www.bartleby.com/1013/10.html

The Comstock Act – est. 1873

Photo: Anthony Comstock

The post-Civil War era was a time of emancipation, freedom, industry, and new inventions and ideas. One of those being the camera, and another being the newly popular form of pornography. This, along with increased uses of contraception, birthed the Comstock Act of 1873, when Anthony Comstock found these two ideas purely evil ones.

This Act in the United States took on a new degree and area of the ‘abortion problem’ across the country. This meant that now, men and women had less access to information regarding abortion and contraception. Before 1873 there was only discouragement of the abortion itself, but to discourage access to information alongside it took on a new dimension.

The Comstock Act itself prohibits the possession or mailing of ‘obscene’ materials, while at the same time it never defined exactly what was considered obscene. It was an attempt to regulate what had been networking throughout the U.S. Postal Service mailing route, by a 29-year-old man who had not been impressed by the latest that American society had to offer. As a U.S. Postal Service inspector, he felt that it as his job to regulate such.
Later in the Roth v. United States case in 1957, the term ‘obscene’ is more defined:
“Obscene material is material which deals with sex in a manner appealing to prurient interest – i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts…
The standard for judging obscenity, adequate to withstand the charge of constitutional infirmity, is whether, to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest.” (Epstein and Walk, 346)
Anyone who was convicted of violating any of the Comstock laws would receive up to five years of imprisonment with hard labor and a fine of up to $2000.

The Comstock Act lived nearly 100 years until it was finally determined inapplicable to certain unlawful situations. However, still even today there are lingerings of it. Pornography continues to be limited in various ways. Contraception and abortion are far from becoming accepted and fully legalized across the country. We especially see problem and controversy in the abortion industry as of yet, and information regarding such topics still continues to be limited and restricted in certain areas of the nation.

It is not difficult to determine what the Comstock Act did to American society in the late 19th century. This not only put another level of law onto the abortion and contraception issue, but also struck fear and stressed ignorance among the public. Thousands of cases and violation of the Comstock Act sprouted throughout the decades until the Roe v. Wade case ruled it only applicable to ‘unlawful’ abortions in 1973.

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