Eugenics & Contraception, part 22

The 1970s saw the early formation of the anti contraception and abortion movement. In 1973 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops suggested the Constitution ought to be amended, to specifically ban abortion. The Southern Baptist Convention began debating the language of their anti-abortion position and exceptions for fetal deformity, rape, and “carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”

In 1975 country music darling Loretta Lynn released a song praising the wonders of birth control, “The Pill.” Like many of her biggest hits (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”, “Another’s On The Way”), “The Pill” was semi autobiographical. Lynn was born the second of eight children, married at fifteen, and had six children by 32, all before Griswold v. Connecticut established a married woman’s right to birth control in 1965. The next year she became a grandmother, at 34 years of age. 

In “The Pill” she thrilled at finally having control over the fertility that had kept her changing diapers since her teens. It was an unabashed celebration, and she sang as if to her husband “You’ve set this chicken your last time, cause now I’ve got the Pill.” Country radio stations banned it (and eight other Loretta Lynn songs) for ruffling conservative feathers. Today she is 84 and still recording. Her latest album “Hidden Insights” was released in 2016. 

But not everyone was thrilled with birth control and abortion being legal. Representative Henry Hyde of Illinois took it upon himself to keep federal dollars from helping poor patients pay for abortions. Updated versions of the Hyde Amendment have been passed by subsequent Congresses. The precise wording changes but the goal remains the same: keep federal funds from paying for abortion services, now with an exception for fetal deformity or health of the mother.

This directly impacts a few distinct populations, including Native patients of Indian Health Services, poor Medicaid recipients, and military service members and their families. Military members and Natives are disproportionately victims of sexual assault, including assault resulting in pregnancy. Poor people of any race are far more likely to seek abortion, and far less likely to have outside insurance coverage or the means to pay for an abortion. 

One thought on “Eugenics & Contraception, part 22

  1. Your mention of the Loretta Lynn song reminded me of another early, controversial song, praising contraception. Do you know of The Singing Nun, Sœur Sourire(Sister Smile)? She had an international hit in ’62 with “Dominique”, but in ’67 she recorded “Glory be to God for the Golden Pill”. Her’s is a tragic story though.


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