Ireland allows sale of contraceptives

Ireland allows sale of contraceptives

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In a highly controversial vote on February 20, 1985, the Irish government defies the powerful Catholic Church and approves the sale of contraceptives.

Up until 1979, Irish law prohibited the importation and sale of contraceptives. In a 1973 case, McGee v. The Attorney General, the Irish Supreme Court found that a constitutional right to marital privacy covered the use of contraceptives. Pressured by strong conservative forces in Irish society, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, the government was slow to change the law to reflect the court’s decision, and a number of proposed bills failed before reaching the books.

In 1979, the Irish health minister, Charles Haughey, introduced a bill limiting the legal provision of contraceptives to “bona fide family planning purposes.” Signed into law in November 1980, the Health (Family Planning) Act ensured that contraceptives could be sold by a registered pharmacist to customers with a valid medical prescription. Still, many people saw the law as too strict. Over the next several years, a movement began to make contraceptives more easily available, causing bitter divisions inside and outside of the Dail, Ireland’s main house of Parliament.

As the government debated the changes, Catholic Church leaders railed against them, warning that increased access to contraceptives would encourage the moral decay of Ireland, leading to more illegitimate children and increased rates of abortion and venereal disease. On the eve of the vote in early 1985, the Dublin archbishop claimed the legislation would send Ireland down a “slippery slope of moral degradation.” Some politicians were even threatened with violence if they voted for the legislation.

On February 20, 1985, a coalition of the Fine Gael and Labour parties led by Dr. Garret FitzGerald defeated the opposition of the conservative Fianna Fail party by an 83-80 vote. The new legislation made non-medical contraceptives (condoms and spermicides) available without prescriptions to people over 18 at pharmacies; it also allowed for the distribution of these contraceptives at doctors’ offices, hospitals and family planning clinics. Though it was still illegal to advertise contraceptives and use of the birth control pill remained restricted, the vote marked a major turning point in Irish history—the first-ever defeat of the Catholic Church in a head-to-head battle with the government on social legislation.

READ MORE: Ireland grants a divorce for the first time in the country's history

Things that Irish women could not do in 1970s

To examine how things have changed for women in Ireland, Fintan O’Toole, journalist, and commentator, compiled 10 things that women could not do in 1970, for the Irish Times. Here’s a brief synopsis.

Women in Ireland could not …

1. Keep their jobs in the public service or in a bank once they married

Women who worked in the civil service had to resign from their jobs when they became wives.

2. Sit on a jury

Any Irish citizen who sat on a jury had to be property owners according to the 1927 Juries Act, thus excluding the majority of women.

3. Buy contraceptives

According to the 1935 Criminal Law Amendment Act, the import, sale, and distribution of contraceptives were illegal. As a result, the majority of women had no access to contraceptives, apart from the Pill which was sometimes prescribed as a "cycle regulator."

4. Drink in a pub

During the 1970s, most bars refused to allow women to enter a pub. Those who allowed women to enter generally did not serve females pints of beer.

5. Collect their Children’s Allowance

In 1944, the legislation that introduced the payment of child benefits to parents specified they could only be paid to the father.

6. Women were unable to get a restraining order against a violent partner

7. Before 1976 they were unable to own their home outright

According to Irish Law, women had no right to share the family home and her husband could sell their property without her consent.

8. Women could not refuse to have sex with their husband

A husband had the right to have sex with his wife and consent was not an issue in the eyes of the law.

9. Choose her official place of residence

Once married, a woman was deemed to have the same "domicile" as her husband.

10. Women could not get the same pay for jobs as men

In March 1970, the average hourly pay for women was five shillings, while that for men was over nine. The majority of women were paid less than male counterparts.

Top ten Irish sexual milestones as they happened

The Irish have endured a long history of sexual repression. Up until 1993, it was illegal to be a homosexual in Ireland, and family planning did not begin until the late 1970s. Imports and sales of contraceptives had been banned since 1935 but luckily today, contraceptives are now widely available. Here’s a brief rundown of the course of Irish sexual history.

Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 criminalizes homosexual acts between men. No legislation exists criminalising homosexual acts between women.

2. July 1929

The Censorship of Publications Act 1929 is enacted. The Act prohibits selling, publishing, distributing or importing any publication that relates to contraception or abortion.

3. February 1946

Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 1935 is enacted. The Act prohibits the sale, importation and advertising of any contraceptive. However, the Act does not specifically prohibit the use of contraceptives. The Act also makes it a crime to have "unlawful carnal knowledge" with girls under the age of 17, thereby raising the age of consent to sex from 16 to 17.

Pharmaceutical companies succeed in introducing the contraceptive pill in Ireland as a menstruation cycle regulator.

5. March 1969

The Fertility Guidance Company Ltd (later to change its name to the IFPA) is established in Merrion Square Dublin 1. It is Ireland's first family planning clinic. The organization sidesteps the law by providing contraceptives for free and clients then making a "donation."

6. May 1971

Members of the Irish Women's Liberation Movement travel by train to Belfast to purchase contraceptives. On their return to Dublin they challenge the customs officers at Connolly Train station to arrest them for illegal importation. The customs officers allow the women to pass.

7. December 1971

Three members of the Education Committee of the Fertility Guidance Company publish Family Planning - A Guide for Parents and Prospective Parents. Huge demand for the book necessitates two further printings.

8. November 1976

The Censorship Boards bans the IFPA family planning guidebook, originally published in 1971 and well into its second printing.

9. July 1979

Health (Family Planning) Act 1979 is enacted under Charles Haughey, Minister for Health. The Act legalizes contraception but specifies that contraception, including condoms, are only available on prescription from a doctor and the doctor must be satisfied that the person is seeking the contraceptives for bona fide family planning purposes. This is largely interpreted to mean that only married couples are legally entitled to access contraception.

10. July 1993

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 is enacted. The Act decriminalises consensual homosexual acts between adults.

50 Years Ago, The Pope Called Birth Control 'Intrinsically Wrong'

Pope Paul VI acknowledges cheers as standing on platform in Bogota, Colombia, on Aug. 22, 1968.

A papal encyclical issued 50 years ago this summer marked a turning point in the way Roman Catholics view the teachings of their church.

On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI stunned Catholics around the world with his announcement of Humanae Vitae, "Of Human Life," a document in which he forcefully reaffirmed the church's previously stated position on the use of artificial birth control, calling it "intrinsically wrong."

"We are obliged once more to declare that [methods for] the direct interruption of the generative process," the pope wrote, ". are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children."

Humane Vitae came as a surprise to many Vatican observers. Though an encyclical issued in 1930 already prohibited birth control, a papal commission had been assembled to revisit that ban, and a majority of the commission members suggested that it be dropped. Moreover, a Vatican II document stipulated the right of man "to follow his conscience."

Indeed, Catholics were already using contraception. The birth control pill had been legalized by a Supreme Court decision, and a 1965 survey of Catholic women found that more than half were using some forbidden contraceptive method. By 1973, that proportion had grown, with two of three married Catholic women reported to be relying on birth control to avoid pregnancy. The Humanae Vitae encyclical apparently had had little effect.

"I think in the minds of a lot of Catholics, [the reaction was], 'We're not going to pay any attention to this,'" says Mark Massa, a Jesuit priest the dean of theology at Boston College. "[They thought,] 'the church doesn't know what it's talking about on bedroom issues.'"

For Massa, author of The American Catholic Revolution: How the '60s Changed the Church Forever, the 1968 birth control encyclical had the effect of weakening church authority among the Catholic laity.

"When people see what they regard as a bad law, it breeds contempt for good law," Massa says, "and I think that's exactly what happened with Humanae Vitae. People started to say, 'Well, maybe the church's position on a whole realm of other things was equally mistaken. What else did the church get wrong?'"

'Pay, pray, obey' no longer

One recent survey found that large majorities of U.S. Catholics now think it's possible to be a "good Catholic" without going to church every Sunday or obeying the church's teachings on divorce, remarriage, birth control, or abortion.


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"Many of these things would previously have been accepted as imposed from above," says Mary Gautier of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. "Catholics [in the 1950s] were very much in the mindset of 'Pay, pray, obey.'"

No longer. "They feel very strongly that they're being good Catholics by taking under advisement what the pope says and what the bishops say, but making up their own minds," says Gautier, "based on their own situation, their own conscience."

For Jerry DeMers, 61, a lifelong Catholic in Milwaukee, the inclination to think independently of church teaching began with his reaction to the Humanae Vitae finding that the use of artificial contraception was a mortal sin.

"One of the things I learned in high school is that mortal sin means you are making a fundamental option to turn from God," DeMers says. "Contraception didn't seem to fit that. It didn't make sense."

Among younger Catholics, whether to use artificial birth control is now largely a moot question.

When Krista Sanders, 32, attended a marriage workshop with her husband at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Milwaukee, she learned that her church was still promoting the "rhythm method," which advocates avoiding sex during the part of the month a couple is most likely conceive, as the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy. It did not impress her.

"They give you handouts with all these testimonials about natural family planning, with testimonials from couples who have done it," Sanders says. "But I don't know that very many people follow it. It's kind of, like, 'O.K., that's a nice suggestion. I appreciate the information.' But in this current day, I don't know that it's as relevant for couples like us or other people starting out their marriages in the Catholic faith."

The challenge to Catholic authority these days is increasingly around marriage and family issues.

The modern reality of marriage and family

Marriage in Roman Catholicism is a sacrament, a covenant meant to be perpetual and designed to produce a family with children. It does not end with divorce. A failed marriage must be invalidated by the church. If Catholics remarry without that annulment, the new marriage is not recognized by the church, and they should not receive communion.

As with the birth control ban, however, the strictness of the marriage doctrine means many Catholics find themselves violating it. Marriage is hard. It doesn't always last, and family life can be challenging.

At St. Anthony on the Lake Catholic Church outside Milwaukee, a group of women gather each Wednesday morning to discuss the concerns arising in their daily lives. All are married, with children. Some, like Kate Wimmer, are divorced.

"So many times I just feel like I'm sort of failing as a parent," she tells the group. She is raising seven children, including one from a previous marriage and three stepchildren from her husband's previous marriage. "Then I come here and realize that everyone struggles."

The session is led by Kathie Amidei, a pastoral associate at St. Anthony. Having gone through a divorce herself, she tells the women how she had learned to take responsibility for her own parenting.

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"I just kept believing that if I could be one good parent, I wouldn't screw it up," she said. "And that's what I teach with families that are going through divorce. You can't do anything about the other parent. But you can be that one good parent, and having one good parent changes the odds for a child, exponentially."

Not surprisingly, many Catholics who go through a divorce, Amidei says, end up feeling estranged from their church community.

"For a Catholic, there's an embarrassment that is different than even a loss through death," Amidei says. "It just has a particular stigma."

She realizes that the Roman Catholic emphasis on marriage as an unbreakable covenant is partly responsible for the stigmatization of divorce, but she does not see challenging doctrine as part of her mission.

"As a lay minister in the Catholic church, as a lay woman, I know what I can do and what I cannot do," she says. "I can just care for [someone going through divorce] as best I can and not make them feel that shame and guilt. In many cases, they can't stay married even if they want to, so to punish that person or make them feel worse just doesn't make any sense to me."

As a specialist in counseling Catholic women around divorce and family issues, Amidei is on the Catholic front lines, dealing with modern reality in the context of a continuing faith commitment to the church.

She knows what she is up against. To the extent the Catholic hierarchy clings to traditional doctrinal positions, whether on birth control or divorce, Catholicism may lose its hold among those who are questioning their relationship to the church.

A more tolerant approach

That concern may have motivated Pope Francis two years ago when he issued a document urging priests to be sympathetic to Catholic couples in "imperfect" or "irregular" situations.

Father Larry Chapman, the parish priest at St. Sebastian in Milwaukee, said he now takes a looser approach when he explains church teachings. Tom Gjelten/NPR hide caption

Father Larry Chapman, the parish priest at St. Sebastian in Milwaukee, said he now takes a looser approach when he explains church teachings.

Father Larry Chapman, the parish priest at St. Sebastian in Milwaukee, is among the priests who have responded to that papal call in his own pastoral work.

In a recent homily at a mass for children and their parents, Chapman pointed out how the presentation of church teachings has evolved over the years.

"Back when I was in school," Chapman said, "we learned religion by learning questions and answers. We didn't have a whole lot of other things to do, but we did learn questions and answers."

The answers were all in the Catholic Catechism, which young Catholics were obliged to memorize.

Father Chapman says he now takes a looser approach when he explains church teachings.

"I can come out and say, 'This is what you have to believe,'" he explains. "Or, I can come out and say, 'Let me invite you to consider this.'"

Some U.S. Catholics, however, are uncomfortable with the trend toward looser interpretations of traditional church doctrine, preferring orthodoxy.

"That's what a faith community is supposed to do – give you some guidance as to what the right path is," says Joanne Perleberger, who worships at St. Sebastian. "They're trying to appeal to as many people as possible, which is a good thing. On the other hand, it dilutes what the message is."

Reconsidering Humanae Vitae

Indeed, the move toward a more tolerant approach under Pope Francis has prompted a counter-reaction among some Catholic conservatives.

Some are even revisiting the Humane Vitae encyclical that may have sparked the liberalization trend 50 years ago.

A recent conference convened in part by the Catholic Women's Forum featured speakers offering "Second Thoughts" on the Humane Vitae encyclical and the sexual revolution. Some speakers argued that the "contraceptive culture" that Paul VI foresaw turned out to be associated with things he predicted, including an increase in promiscuity, pornography, sex trafficking, and even abortions. Because no birth control method is 100 percent effective, an increase in casual sexual encounters has arguably led to more unwanted pregnancies, the presenters argued.

"Unlike our forerunners in 1968, those of us living today have access to something they didn't," said Mary Eberstadt, a widely published Catholic writer, "50 years of sociological, psychological, medical, and other evidence about the revolution's fallout."

Some of the lines in Humanae Vitae, when stripped of mid-20th century cultural references, find echoes in contemporary concerns about nonconsensual sexual relations.

"A man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman," the pope wrote, ". and reduce her to a mere instrument of his own desires."

"This document that has been so controversial and in many places reviled," Eberstadt says, "actually called the shots on what the future would look like better than any other single source I could think of."

Revisionist views of the 1968 encyclical have even taken hold among some Catholics who have not abided by its teaching.

"I eventually did read Humanae Vitae," says Jerry DeMers, "and actually I get the [pope's] point, the prediction he makes that if we practice contraception as a society, we will have a breakdown of the family. Because we have separated sex from marriage."

U.S. Catholics however, show in their daily lives that the church's official prohibition of artificial birth control means little in practice, even if it has some value in theory. As a rule, married Catholic couples clearly believe they have a right to control the size of their families, no matter what the church says.

Catholic leaders, meanwhile, have to work harder to defend the legitimacy of church doctrine.

Milwaukee Archbishop Joseph Listecki offers what he admits sounds like a "simplistic" answer.

"It is adherence to the truth," he says, "how the church is challenged and formed by the Gospel over the years. To be consistent to that is important. Why? Because when you start to push yourself away from that consistency, that's when you lose the uniqueness. If we're supposed to be like everybody else in the secular world, then we're not going to be the Catholic church."

In truth, however, U.S. Catholics may already be less Catholic than they used to be. Fifty years ago, about half of all Catholic children in the U.S. were educated in Catholic schools, according to CARA data. Now, it's barely 20 percent.

"It suggests a gradual social change is occurring," says CARA researcher Gautier. "The American Catholic church is assimilating ever further into American culture."

3) Women Making More Money

It&rsquos not just about women in the workforce. Women are earning more of what they deserve:

  • Salary increases: One-third of the wage gains women have made since the 1960s are the result of access to oral contraceptives.
  • Moving closer to pay equality: Although the wage gap between men and women is still significant, particularly for women of color, access to birth control has helped narrow the gap. The decrease in the gap among 25&ndash49-year-olds between men&rsquos and women&rsquos annual incomes would have been 30 percent smaller in the 1990s without widespread legal birth control access.

Illegal Sale at the Virgin Megastore: Remaking Condoms as Legal Objects

The stall at Virgin supported the IFPA’s efforts to dismantle the legal meanings attached to condoms and replace them with new ones. It built on work they were already doing in public education around AIDS, with healthcare workers, in schools and in the mass media. They were conscious that condoms were not accessible for all under the prevailing law.

We opened [the stall] up primarily with the idea that young people would find it much easier to go into a record store where there were other young people and buy condoms. But when we opened up, the store was inundated with people, like there would be a queue of people standing there which was amazing and they came from all around the country when they heard about it and they weren’t young, they were all ages and some that were actually quite old and many of them complained that they found it difficult to get condoms where they were (JO’B, youth officer and press officer, IFPA, interview with Máiréad Enright via Skype, March 19, 2014).

In addition to making condoms accessible, however, the IFPA wanted to normalise their purchase to frame them as a different object (Marshall 2003) to the controlled device they had become under decades of restrictive law. In doing so, they were building on long-standing efforts by the contraceptive movement since the 1970s to destigmatise condom use, and normalise its presence through increased access and visibility. Although illegal condom distribution was a tried-and-tested strategy of the family planning movement (Cloatre and Enright 2017) the IFPA’s use of commercial sites was new. However, it was inscribed in long-standing efforts by activists to negotiate the question of publicity in creating modes of illegal sale. For example, in the 1970s condom distribution began through mail order services to ensure clients’ privacy. Footnote 22 This older approach allowed condoms to be distributed even within prevailing structures of stigma.

[F]amily planning was embarrassing, it was like saying you had a sexually transmitted disease. It was like a ‘woman’s problem’, you just didn’t talk about it even (CD, education officer and CEO, IFPA, interview with authors, Dublin, February 27, 2014).

Now the IFPA wanted to dismantle those structures making open, visible, public sale the new norm.

The IFPA’s partnership with Virgin combined illegal sale with the normality and visibility of everyday consumerism in Dublin city centre. It necessarily raised the question of commodifying sexual health, and this generated important tensions within the movement. Of course, the political dimensions of sale on the market cannot be completely reduced to commodification under capitalism (Gibson-Graham 2008). However, commercial condom distributors undoubtedly saw AIDS awareness as an opportunity for market growth, and this inevitably generated difficulties. Footnote 23 In part, the IFPA’s decision to sell condoms cheaply rather than distribute them for free was pragmatic although manufacturers would sometimes give organisations supplies of free condoms, the IFPA could not stock a long-term stall for free, and so the stall needed to cover its costs, and contribute to the funding of the IFPA. Establishing a market in condoms was not wholly in the IFPA’s interests. In particular, by emphasising condom purchase from ordinary retail outlets, the IFPA were undermining their own market in condoms an essential income stream at a time when they received no state funding. In addition, sale in social and commercial spaces provided an important counter-point to the controlled spaces of sale permitted by law.

[T]he expectation really was the pubs would make them available but the real objective would be for supermarkets to have them available. So, that they would be something you could do in the normal run of course and pharmacies would still continue to sell them but on the open shelves as opposed to behind the counter. That was really the objective. Just to make them a normal thing that you buy. Which indeed is what they have become (T O’B, former CEO, Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), interview with authors, June 24, 2014).

Although condoms were legally available from pharmacies they were often not on open display. Pharmacists’ attitudes changed with time, but it was a conservative profession and many were initially opposed to sale. Purchasing could be a furtive, secretive experience, even for those young people who did not require a doctor’s prescription. Customers often associated a visit to the pharmacy with shaming, judgment and the risk of arbitrary refusal of service.

[Pharmacists said] ‘there’s no way you’re going to force us to sell condoms and we’re not going to sell condoms,’ and they’d shout at people who asked for them, like they’d embarrass them, they’d scream at them in the shop, ‘Get out of here you dirty whatever’ (CD, education officer and CEO, IFPA, interview with authors, Dublin, February 27, 2014).

It was significant that the IFPA sold Mates condoms. Developed in late 1987 as a new product by Virgin for the British market in the context of the AIDS crisis, mates were primarily designed and advertised as prophylactics. Retailers were asked to ‘take part in the Fight Against Aids’ by selling them at no profit, so that they would be available at half the price of Durex the market leader. Footnote 24 The manner of the transaction was as important as the space and the product. Mates asked retailers to ‘make condoms readily available, take out the embarrassment of purchase, and make them a part of everyday life’. Footnote 25 At Virgin, condoms could be purchased from volunteers associated with the IFPA’s new young people’s clinic—aged 19 or 20—in an open, informal and non-hierarchical atmosphere:

[We] wanted to normalise how these things were actually seen, that it wasn’t a big deal and I think that the biggest thing about the people selling, I think the biggest thing was that the people who were selling them were actually, this was matter of fact, it might have been a big deal for someone to buy a condom. In those days, they weren’t, like now you go in, thanks to a change in law, you go in anywhere and there’s condoms in the gas station, there’s condoms in Tesco, you know, there’s condoms all over the place. In those days there wasn’t, like it was like, ‘Ooh, that’s a condom’ (JO’B, youth officer and press officer, IFPA, interview with Máiréad Enright via Skype, March 19, 2014).

The IFPA’s young activists were aware of the importance of legal change in part they were politicised by events like the 1983 abortion referendum, which showed that activist groups (albeit conservative ones in that instance) could successfully campaign for laws reflecting their political beliefs. As well as altering public perceptions of condoms as legal objects, they aimed to exploit illegal sale to agitate for formal legal change. The government were stubbornly unresponsive to IFPA advocacy around condom law reform. The stall was a performance of political disobedience and moral transgression. It dramatized the gap between the kinds of condom use (and sex) the state would officially condone, and the everyday sex lives of Irish people. By amplifying the consequences of the state’s position, and the real need for change, it aimed to provoke a government response (Brennan 1985). Footnote 26 This was a complex strategy. It was difficult to provoke enforcement of the law. Illegal sale was generally tolerated by the state. Past attempts at prosecution were sparse, convictions rarer still, and police did not act unless a member of the public made a complaint (Cloatre and Enright 2017). One family planning clinic doctor reflecting on decades of experience recalled:

Well lookit, we kept our heads down as I said we just gave a service and nobody ever bothered us apart from the protests, you know, but nobody from the guards or anything ever came around, they weren’t interested (JW, doctor, Galway Family Planning Clinic, interview with Máiréad Enright, Galway, June 27 2014).

The IFPA had a good relationship with the police. The Virgin stall was operating for 2 years before the police took any action, only doing so at the behest of unidentified conservative members of the public. Footnote 27 Until prosecution, it was difficult to force the state to acknowledge its own contradictory position. At the same time, the IFPA were confident of a reaction:

I think there’s a certain sense that when you’re doing something that we knew what we were doing and we would work out the rationale for it a little bit later on. But I do think that we, I think that it was inevitable that they were going to come after us. I was surprised that they didn’t come after us about some of the other things like the youth clinic and things like that, but it was more trickier for them to get us on those things, but yeah, I think we knew that they were coming (JO’B, youth officer and press officer, IFPA, interview with Máiréad Enright via Skype, March 19, 2014.)

The Virgin stall was distinctive because it was a self-conscious exercise in sale as direct action. The IFPA, unlike other groups, was once reluctant to pursue this tactic (Rynne, 134–137). Until the late 1980s it was less a protest organisation than a medical charity, and its executive committee were, in the words of younger activists, “liberals”, willing to take risks with their own careers by their association with family planning, but at the same time “serious medical professionals” and “not lawbreakers by any stretch of the imagination” (CD, education officer and CEO, IFPA, interview with authors). Direct action risked the organisation’s stability. The 1985 Act’s recognition of family planning clinics meant that the IFPA no longer occupied a pure ‘outlaw’ role in relation to condom distribution. At least some of its sales were legal. It was now in a liminal zone, and this raised the stakes of prosecution, both for those staff depending on the IFPA for the livelihoods and the poor communities they served.

And it was pretty tough because I told you that the situation financially, this wasn’t a rich organisation, it was always really precarious whether we’d make the next year, so the idea of haemorrhaging money not just because you have an active political wing but your active political wing is incurring fines that were rather steep for us in those days, it meant that you had a board of directors, those board of directors were running two clinics that a lot of people depend upon for their basic contraceptive services […] one of the things that was rather heartening that there was a political commitment (JO’B, youth officer and press officer, IFPA, interview with Máiréad Enright via Skype, March 19, 2014).

20 February-Contraception in Ireland

The sale of contraceptives in Ireland was legal up until 1935. In that year a law was enacted which prohibited the sale of contraceptives in the country. The law, with some alterations in 1979, remained in place for fifty years.

In 1930 the Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical (Casti connubii). The encyclical prohibited people of the Roman Catholic faith from using any form of artificial birth control. In 1935 the Irish Government made it illegal to import or sell contraceptives in Ireland when it passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Section 17 (I) of the act stated: ‘It shall not be lawful for any person to sell, or expose, offer, advertise, or keep for sale or to import or attempt to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale, any contraceptive’.

Attempts by people such as Mary Robinson were made to liberalise the law on contraception but without success. There were also several protests, the most famous of which occurred on May 22nd 1971. On that occasion a group of 49 women took the train to Belfast. They purchased contraceptives and when they returned to Dublin refused to hand them over to the authorities. The event generated a lot of controversy and publicity.

A decision was made by the Supreme Court in 1973 that married couples were entitled to privacy under the constitution and as such could import contraceptives for personal use. This meant a change in the legislation was necessary. After several failed attempts the law was eventually changed when The Health (Family Planning) Act of 1979 became law. Under the new legislation contraceptives were made available on prescription from a doctor for bona fide family planning purposes. Six years later the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act 1985 allowed for the sale of contraceptives without a prescription to people aged 18 and over.

The law permitting the sale of contraceptives in Ireland to people aged 18 and over was passed in the year 1985 On This Day.

When Contraception Was a Crime: Griswold v. Connecticut

Estelle Griswold, left, and Cornelia Jahncke, of Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of birth control access.

The right to access birth control was in the crosshairs last year, when the Supreme Court ruled that certain employers had the right to exclude emergency contraception from their employees’ health plans. But the Hobby Lobby case was just one in a long line of contraception-related cases decided by the Supreme Court, and while that outcome was a setback for the reproductive rights movement, history also is filled with decisions that helped advance the cause. One of those victories came 50 years ago this Sunday, on June 7, 1965, when the Supreme Court handed down a decisive win for contraception access in Griswold v. Connecticut.

Griswold v. Connecticut was a landmark case in expanding access to birth control — but it was only a first step.

When the birth control pill came onto the market in 1960, it was a dream come true for anyone wanting to control her own reproduction. But in 30 states it was illegal to advertise contraception, and in two states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, it was outright banned. In fact, anyone using birth control in Connecticut was at risk for a fine or imprisonment. These draconian laws didn’t stop people from seeking birth control from their doctors, but it did force them to engage in activities that were technically “criminal.”

Connecticut had been the birthplace, in 1844, of one of history’s most relentless anti-contraceptive crusaders, Anthony Comstock, whose Puritan upbringing spurred a nearly lifelong crusade against what he saw as the devices of immorality. Comstock was the driving force behind federal and state laws that banned birth control, and it’s estimated that he initiated as many as 4,000 arrests, one of the last of which was Bill Sanger, husband of Margaret Sanger, for distributing a pamphlet on family planning. Comstock died on September 21, 1915, months after Sanger’s arrest.

Connecticut’s anti-contraception law predated the birth of oral contraceptives by more than 80 years. It was so broadly worded that more old-fashioned family-planning methods, such as diaphragms and condoms, could also see their users fined or sent to jail. There was also equal punishment for anyone “aiding and abetting” would-be contraceptive users, meaning that doctors, pharmacists, and others could be punished for providing patients with birth control or information about it.

In 1961, just a year after the Pill hit the shelves in American pharmacies, two birth control advocates spearheaded an act of civil disobedience in response to Connecticut’s Comstock law. Estelle Griswold, the executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, the chair of the Department of Obstetrics at Yale University’s medical school, opened a birth control clinic — and were promptly arrested, prosecuted, and fined $100 apiece for defying state law. During the clinic’s brief lifespan, from November 1 to 10, married couples received counseling, exams, and birth control prescriptions — all in violation of state law.

Ms. Griswold immediately challenged the constitutionality of Connecticut’s anti-contraception law, but it was upheld in state courts, only to wend its way to the Supreme Court, which, in a 7-to-2 decision, ruled that married couples had a constitutional right to make private decisions about contraception. Of course, the ruling was limited in scope, applying only to married couples — who were not the only people with a pressing need for reliable contraception. Premarital sex existed in the 1960s, just as it always had, and unmarried mothers were often coerced into giving their babies up for adoption, while single mothers who raised their “illegitimate” children were targets of scorn. Yet, somehow, the contraceptive needs of unmarried women were not considered important.

Just as Roe v. Wade was framed as an issue of privacy between a woman and a doctor, so too was Griswold v. Connecticut an affirmation of marital privacy rather than an individual’s right to enjoy full bodily autonomy, independently of her marital status. Women were viewed in the context of their relationship to a man — and Griswold empowered the married couple with the right to joint decision-making over the female reproductive system.

Luckily, the perception of wives has been changing over the past 50 years. While marriage used to enshrine female subservience into law, married women have gained recognition as distinct individuals since the 1970s and ’80s. Spousal rape is now recognized by U.S. law, wives don’t hand over their economic independence to their husbands on their wedding days, and more married couples strive toward egalitarian partnerships.

Nor is marriage and motherhood as likely to be seen as a woman’s highest calling — they are choices that each individual can make for herself as she decides her future. Unmarried people with uteruses have been increasingly regarded as entitled to the same family-planning methods that were originally restricted within the purview of marriage.

Unfortunately, there are still political and social forces that use the female body as a battleground for philosophical debate. The anti-abortion movement is increasingly becoming an anti-contraception movement, as exemplified by the Hobby Lobby case and other attacks on widening access to birth control. One might think that contraception’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy would be embraced by abortion opponents, but the fight to limit access to birth control belies a more sinister motive: to deny women full control over their own bodies.

Griswold v. Connecticut was a landmark case in expanding contraception access — but it was only a first step. In restricting its ruling to married couples, the Supreme Court perpetuated the idea that birth control was only appropriate within the confines of marriage, either ignoring the fact that unmarried people can be at risk for pregnancy, or not wishing to grant the privileges of reliable contraception to those who engage in premarital sex. It wasn’t until 1972 that the Supreme Court ruled that unmarried people, too, had an equal claim to birth control, in Eisenstadt v. Baird. Given the growing movement to restrict this access, our right to contraception is one we must never take for granted.

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Islamic views on contraception

Islamic medicine has known about birth control for centuries - for example the Muslim writers Avicenna (980-1037) and Al-Razi (d 923 or 924) refer to different methods of contraception.

Islam is strongly pro-family and regards children as a gift from God.

Muslim sexual ethics forbid sex outside marriage, so its teachings about birth control should be understood within the context of husband and wife.

There is no single attitude to contraception within Islam however eight of the nine classic schools of Islamic law permit it.

But more conservative Islamic leaders have openly campaigned against the use of condoms or other birth control methods, thus making population planning in many countries ineffective.

This resistance to birth control was reflected in 2005 when a conference involving 40 Islamic scholars from 21 countries urged fresh efforts to push population planning and better reproductive health services.

But although all the participants were in favour of promoting the use of contraceptives for married couples, they were reluctant to make it part of their joint declaration for fear of reprisals from the more conservative Islamic scholars in their respective countries.

The Qur'an

The Qur'an does not refer to contraception explicitly, but Muslims opposed to birth control often quote the Qur'an as saying "You should not kill your children for fear of want" (17:31, 6:151) and interpret this as including a ban on contraception as well as infanticide. Supporters of birth control argue that this interpretation is wrong.

In practice most Muslim authorities permit contraception to preserve the health of the mother or the well-being of the family.


There are a number of hadith which indicate that the Prophet knew of birth control and approved of it in appropriate circumstances.


Hadith are said to describe and approve of the withdrawal method ('azl).

Scholars point out that this method may deprive the woman of both sexual fulfilment and of having children, and so should not be used without the woman's agreement.

Egyptian scholars have argued that any method that has the same purpose as 'azl - i.e. preventing conception - is acceptable, so long as it does not have a permanent effect.

Contraceptive methods that do not prevent conception but cause a very early abortion are not accepted.

Contraception with the aim of having a permanently child-free marriage is not accepted. So sterilisation is wrong - partly because it prevents children permanently and partly because of a text forbidding men to castrate themselves.

Family planning/contraception methods

Ensuring access for all people to their preferred contraceptive methods advances several human rights including the right to life and liberty, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to work and education, as well as bringing significant health and other benefits. Use of contraception prevents pregnancy-related health risks for women, especially for adolescent girls, and when births are separated by less than two years, the infant mortality rate is 45% higher than it is when births are 2-3 years and 60% higher than it is when births are four or more years apart[1]. It offers a range of potential non-health benefits that encompass expanded education opportunities and empowerment for women, and sustainable population growth and economic development for countries.

Modern contraceptive prevalence among Married women of reproductive age (MWRA) increased worldwide between 2000 and 2019 by 2.1 percentage points from 55.0% (95% UI 53.7%&ndash56.3%) to 57.1% (95% UI 54.6%&ndash59.5%)1. Reasons for this slow increase include: limited choice of methods limited access to services, particularly among young, poorer and unmarried people fear or experience of side-effects cultural or religious opposition poor quality of available services users&rsquo and providers&rsquo bias against some methods and gender-based barriers to accessing services.

[1] Kantorová V, Wheldon MC, Ueffing P, Dasgupta ANZ (2020) Estimating progress towards meeting women&rsquos contraceptive needs in 185 countries: A Bayesian hierarchical modelling study. PLoS Med 17(2):e1003026.

[2] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Family Planning and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. New York: United Nations.

[3] Family Planning Can Reduce High Infant Mortality Levels. Guttmacher Institute.

Contraceptive methods

Methods of contraception include oral contraceptive pills, implants, injectables, patches, vaginal rings, Intra uterine devices, condoms, male and female sterilization, lactational amenorrhea methods, withdrawal and fertility awareness based methods. These methods have different mechanisms of action and effectiveness in preventing unintended pregnancy. Effectiveness of methods is measured by the number of pregnancies per 100 women using the method per year. Methods are classified by their effectiveness as commonly used into: Very effective (0&ndash0.9 pregnancies per 100 women) Effective (1-9 pregnancies per 100 women) Moderately effective (10-19 pregnancies per 100 women) Less effective (20 or more pregnancies per 100 women)

Mechanisms of action and effectiveness of contraceptive methods

Japan OKs Birth Control Pill After Decades of Delay

Japan decided Wednesday that it will legalize the birth control pill, 34 years after the contraceptive was first submitted for approval and less than five months after Viagra gained rapid permission for sale here.

But more than three decades of propaganda about the dangers of the pill may discourage many Japanese women from using it when marketing begins in the autumn, family planning experts said.

In a newspaper poll last year, only 7.2% of women surveyed said they would take the pill, while 54.2% said they would not, mainly citing fear of side effects. Nevertheless, activists cheered the fact that Japanese women soon will have another contraceptive option.

“This is a society that hates to give women choice--whether it’s about keeping their own names after marriage or about taking the pill,” said lawmaker Mizuho Fukushima. “They are afraid that society will be turned upside down if women are allowed to decide things for themselves. That’s why this has been going on for more than 30 years.”

Japan has come under international scrutiny from women’s groups as the only United Nations member country where oral contraceptives are banned. And the Health and Welfare Ministry was accused of hypocrisy, even by the male-dominated Japanese media, in January when it approved the male anti-impotence drug Viagra after six months of consideration, while applications to market the female oral contraceptive had been languishing at the ministry for decades.

In fact, an estimated 200,000 Japanese women are using a high-dosage, 1960s vintage pill that was approved in 1966 for use only in treating menstrual disorders. This pill is prescribed illicitly by doctors for birth control, despite its known adverse side effects. Meanwhile, some Japanese women go overseas to obtain the safer, low-dose pill that is used by an estimated 90 million women worldwide.

Applications to market the low-dose pill had been pending at the ministry since 1990. But approval was blocked in the early 1990s over concerns that approving the pill would lessen condom use and thus hasten the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. In the past two years, new fears have been raised about the possibility that the pill’s hormones might disrupt the human endocrine system and the environment.

On Wednesday, the Central Pharmaceutical Affairs Council--the powerful committee that advises the health minister--recommended approval of the low-dose pill, as well as the female condom and one type of copper intrauterine device. Some older types of IUDs are used in Japan, but contraceptive implants and injections remain banned. More than 70% of Japanese who use contraception rely on male condoms.

The council’s recommendation virtually assures formal approval of 16 different types of low-dose pills from nine pharmaceutical companies within about a month, Japanese media reported.

“Finally, we’re becoming a normal country,” said Dr. Tomoko Saotome, an obstetrician-gynecologist with the Professional Women’s Coalition for Sexuality and Health. She noted concerns that some doctors may advise patients against taking the pill and some clinics may not dispense it because of ideological opposition.

Demand probably will not be steep initially because of fears about the pill, said Yuriko Ashino, deputy executive director of the Family Planning Federation of Japan.

“I won’t take the pill. I’m afraid of all the side effects, and besides, it’s so unnatural,” said Kozue Nakahara, 23, who was window-shopping at Condomania, a condom store in the trendy Harajuku area of Tokyo. While she will continue to rely on condoms, Nakahara said the ban on the pill has been “unfair to all women.”

However, the pill’s bad press may be changing. The June issues of several women’s magazines feature long, informative and ideologically neutral articles explaining the pros and cons of the low-dose pill. Cosmopolitan magazine ran a manga comic series about the interpersonal politics of the pill, including an episode in which a woman asks her boyfriend to sign a contract promising to pay half the cost of the contraceptive.

Other women said they are eager to find out for themselves why millions of women in other countries use the pill.

“It is said here that birth control pills have so many scary side effects, but they have been used for so many decades in so many countries that I am not that worried,” said Miki Matsuo, a 31-year-old travel agent.

Contrary to the stereotype that Japanese women are shy and submissive, several women interviewed this week were eager to vent pent-up anger at their government and their mates.

“I absolutely will take it unless I get bad side effects,” said Akiko Morita, a 41-year-old homemaker who abandoned the high-dose pill 20 years ago after suffering nausea and headaches. “I’m now using condoms for contraception, but I have to ask him to use it. How rude! Men should take responsibility too, but at the moment the women have to take all the risks. Japanese men don’t think enough about women.”

Some Japanese--women as well as men--have expressed concern that the pill’s approval will lead to a rise in promiscuity. But others hope that it will reduce the rate of abortions, which end about one in four pregnancies in Japan. Lawmaker Fukushima said that with only 1.1% of Japanese children born out of wedlock, the enduring stigma of illegitimacy creates enormous social pressure for unmarried women to abort.

Watch the video: Αντισυλληπτικά Χάπια. Μύθοι, Αλήθειες u0026 Παρενέργειες - Θεμιστοκλής Τσίτσος. Φαρμακοποιός (May 2022).