The Battle for Birth Control: Exploring the Rhetoric of theBirth Control Movement 1914-2014

by Jessica L Furgerson

Institution: Ohio University
Year: 2015
Keywords: Communication; Gender; Gender Studies; History; Rhetoric; Womens Studies; birth control; rhetoric; contraception; reproductive rights; historiography; Margaret Sanger; social movement; political accommodation
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2119531
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=ohiou1420730080


Formally begun in 1914 under the leadership of Margaret Sanger, the birth control movement in the United States constitutes one of the longest and most important rights based struggles in American history. This work approaches the phrase birth control as an ideograph and deploys critical historiography to explore its evolving articulations within the movement's rhetoric over the last 100 years. In doing so, this work builds on current scholarship in the fields of communication, history, and sociology by expanding existing discussions surrounding the struggle for reproductive rights generally and birth control specifically. Drawing primarily from archival materials and popular media sources, this work explores both how the movement articulated its demands and how these articulations played out in public discussions about birth control. Grounded in a historical overview of the movement, the rhetoric of the movement is then examined in relation to securing the right to contraception for various stakeholders and, most importantly, the articulation of women’s reproductive rights. The espoused framework for reproductive rights is then broken down into its component parts – control and choice – culminating in a discussion of the rhetoric of constraint which limits the full enactment of the very reproductive rights framework birth controllers sought to establish. Ultimately, this work seeks to examine the tensions created by the movement’s strategy of political accommodation that popularized the movement, and simultaneously left it vulnerable to the demands of external stakeholders. Advisors/Committee Members: McKerrow, Raymie (Advisor).