An historical look at birth control and the media is the theme of Journalism & Communication Monographs’ last issue of 2016 (Volume 18, Number 4). The issue’s monograph by Ana C. Garner and Angela R. Michel is titled: “The Birth Control Divide”: U.S. Press Coverage of Contraception, 1873-2013, followed by two commentary pieces: Situating Contraception in a Broader Historical Formation (Carole R. McCann) and 140 Years of Birth Control Coverage in the Prestige Press (Dolores Flamiano).
Abstract (Garner/Michel analysis)
For more than 140 years, religious, medical, legislative, and legal institutions have contested the issue of contraception. In this conversation, predominantly male voices have attached reproductive rights to tangential moral and political matters, revealing an ongoing, systematic attempt to regulate human bodies, especially those of women. This analysis of 1873-2013 press coverage of contraception in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune shows a division between institutional ideology and real-life experience; women’s reproductive rights are negotiable. Although journalists often reported that contraception was a factor in the everyday life of women and men, press accounts also showed religious, medical, legislative, and legal institutions debating whether it should be. Contraception originally was predominately viewed as a practice of prostitutes (despite evidence to the contrary) but became a part of everyday life. The battle has slowly evolved into one about the Affordable Care Act, religious freedom, morality, and employer rights. What did not significantly change over the 140-year period are larger cultural and ideological structures; these continue to be dominated by men, who retain power over women’s bodies.