The Battle for Birth Control delves into the complex rhetorical history of the American birth control movement in its formative years. In just four decades, advocates, under the strategic guidance of Margaret Sanger, transitioned the fight for contraception from fringe radical movement to a respectable mainstream cause endorsed by powerful professionals and politicians alike. Eschewing their early ideological commitments to obtain widespread acceptance, birth controllers adopted a strategy of political accommodation characterized by deferential rhetoric and careful posturing. This strategy secured significant victories for the movement but at what cost? Informed by a deep commitment to reproductive justice, The Battle for Birth Control traces the duplicity of the movement’s early rhetoric and argues that their accommodationist strategy yielded increased contraceptive access solely because of their willingness to endorse the neoliberal regime of reproductive control largely responsible for the current threats to reproductive autonomy in the 21st century.
Jessica L. Furgerson is assistant professor in communication at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College.
Chapter One: The Battle for Leadership
Chapter Two: Save the Mothers
Chapter Three: Think of the Children
Chapter Four: Responsible People, Responsible Parents
Chapter Five: Alliances and Accommodation
Chapter Six: Contraception in the Courts
Chapter Seven: Putting Birth Control on the Agenda
About the Author
"Furgerson gives us a necessary and pointed study of early birth control rhetoric and its tortuous and enduring afterlife."
"This concise, highly comprehensible political and cultural history of birth control in the US is an essential read that builds on an impressive body of scholarship to educate others about the history of birth control activism in the US. In Battle for Birth Control, Furgerson astutely delves into a nuanced examination of the birth control movement’s rhetorical strategies weaving together an impressive array of primary and secondary texts to highlight women’s voices in the various stages of the movement’s political evolution. This is a timely and welcomed addition to scholarly discussions and political debates examining the last 100 years of birth control discourse that has brought us to today—a time when reproductive options (e.g., birth control and abortion) are constantly attacked. Individuals interested in reproductive justice, women’s history, and political discourse will generally find this monograph a much-needed and groundbreaking addition to understanding the 'big picture' view of the movement and the lingering consequences of their rhetoric for the vast stakeholders involved. This book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to understand how birth control has changed women's (and men’s!) lives."
"In The Battle for Birth Control, Jessica Furgerson draws upon extensive archival materials to trace the rhetorical foundations and ideological commitments of the 20th century birth control movement. With careful attention to the rhetorical strategies that connected contraception to maternalism, child welfare, suffrage, sexual liberation, medicalization, and eugenics, Furgerson details the lasting consequences of the movement’s rhetorical appeals. The Battle for Birth Control spotlights intra-movement divergences, untangling the seemingly opportune alliances that haunt the movement today."
"Activists and academics will find something valuable here. Fergerson's analysis of the rhetorical choices made by birth control pioneers is both insightful and deeply contextualized. In this way, the author is able to simultaneously explain why decisions were made in the past without losing sight of the negative implications of those decisions on the trajectory of the movement. This book helps us to understand how a movement born of a radical vision grew into a reproductive rights movement that has since necessitated the corrective of a reproductive justice movement."
“The Battle for Birth Control: Exploring the Lasting Consequences of the Movement’s Early Rhetoric is an insightful treatise on the long, historical but seemingly never-ending fight for bodily autonomy. The book teaches us a great deal about the legacy left by the early birth controllers and how their rhetoric shapes contemporary arguments surrounding choice and control over reproduction."