Reproductive rights  

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The phrase "every sperm is sacred", taken from the Monty Python song of the same name, has become proverbial in the abortion debate. Pro-choice activists have sung the song outside abortion clinics to ridicule their opponents, legal scholars have alluded to it in discussions of women's reproductive rights, and it is used generally to do what has been described as "[exposing] the absurdity of the anti-choice argument when taken to its extreme."--"Body Narratives, Body Boundaries" (1992) by Emily Martin

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Reproductive Rights are legal rights and freedoms relating to reproduction and reproductive health.


As feminism sought to redefine itself, new issues rose to the surface, one of which was reproductive rights. Even discussing the issue could be hazardous. Annie Besant had been tried in 1877 for publishing Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy, a work on family planning, under the Obscene Publications Act 1857.

Knowlton had previously been convicted in the United States. She and her colleague Charles Bradlaugh were convicted but acquitted on appeal, the subsequent publicity resulting in a decline in the birth rate.

Not discouraged in the slightest, Besant followed this with The Law of Population.

Similarly in America, Margaret Sanger was prosecuted for her Family Limitation under the Comstock Act 1873, in 1914, and fled to Britain where she met with Marie Stopes until it was safe for her to return. Sanger continued to risk prosecution, and her work was prosecuted in Britain. Stopes was never prosecuted but was regularly denounced for her work in promoting birth control. Even more controversial was the establishment of the Abortion Law Reform Association in 1936. The penalty for abortion had been reduced from execution to life imprisonment by the Offences against the Person Act 1861, although some exceptions were allowed in the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929.

Following the prosecution of Dr. Aleck Bourne in 1938, the 1939 Birkett Committee made recommendations for reform, that like many other women's issues, were set aside at the outbreak of the Second World War.

In The Netherlands Aletta H. Jacobs, first Dutch female doctor, and Wilhelmina Drucker were frontwomen in discussing and taking action on the theme reproductive rights. Jacobs started to import pessaria from Germany and gave them out for free to poor women in her praxis.

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