Birth Control

Girls' bodies have long served as a platform for social debate, legislation, and questionable medical practices. In the early 1900s, physicians targeted girls with disabilities for sterilization, preventing them from reproducing. During the 1950s and early 1960s, as rates of teen pregnancy soared, American educators promoted sex education. Into the 1970s and 1980s, girls and women were sterilized. Many women later fought back with lawsuits.

Map of eugenical sterilization in the United States, 1935

Map of eugenical sterilization in the United States, 1935

Courtesy of Truman State University's Harry H. Laughlin Papers, Pickler Memorial Library Special Collections and Museums

Carrie Buck was sterilized involuntarily under Virginia's eugenics laws, 1934

Carrie Buck was sterilized involuntarily under Virginia's eugenics laws, 1934

Courtesy of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory DNA Learning Center

Newspaper ad on

Newspaper ad on "population bomb," 1968

From the Campaign to Check the Population Explosion, 1969. Courtesy of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University

Child at an anti-sterilization protest, undated

Child at an anti-sterilization protest, undated

Courtesy of Alva Nelms, Photographer

Mothers protesting sterilization, 1971

Mothers protesting sterilization, 1971

Courtesy of Valdosta University

Poster protesting the forced sterilization of women of color, 1977

Poster protesting the forced sterilization of women of color, 1977

Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-43321

Collage for Teen Action Research Project, 1988

Collage for Teen Action Research Project, 1988

Copyright Conn-dom Nation, Safer Sex Campaign, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Conn. and Connecticut Department of Public Health, 1992. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine