From Zipper Ring to Tatum T: Intra-Uterine Devices, Men of Science, and Women in Need

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 3:50 PM
Room 201 (Colorado Convention Center)
Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, University of Arizona
I use Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs) to explore the links between everyday and transnational phenomena and their mutual dependency. As we connect the histories of individual women who sought to limit pregnancies to the contexts of medical scientists’ research on contraceptive technologies, we get new insights into the meaning and re-appropriation of the power to control human reproduction in a transnational context. Through the lens of IUDs as transnational objects I seek to make tangible how debates on fertility regulation changed over time and could either increase or limit women’s choices about pregnancies. The new trust in contraception stimulated debates on fertility control and family planning among scientists, medical doctors, politicians, and clergy, as well as women. For some, it implied improved control over population size – and women’s bodies- in global and national settings; for others, it offered a new degree of choices women could make about their lives.

New transnational scientific and political paradigms informed the everyday stories of women’s lives in Chile and increased their range of choices about how to prevent pregnancies. Yet, their reproductive choices were compromised when transnational debates on population control informed medical research goals and policy making.  Focusing on the development of IUDs, and drawing on histories of medical doctors and population planners (“men of science”) who were active in Europe and the Americas, I focus on the tensions between the goals that set apart men of science from “women in need” – the latter representing the key people whose everyday stories I seek to explore. My analysis links scientific medical developments, the Zipper Ring in Chile, and the Tatum-T, the first IUD on the market in the United States, to demographic concerns of the Cold War and to the demographic debates that informed the decisions Chilean women could make about their lives.