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Reproductive Politics in Twentieth-Century France and Britain

  • Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (a1) and Caroline Rusterholz (a2)


This special issue adopts a comparative approach to the politics of reproduction in twentieth-century France and Britain. The articles investigate the flow of information, practices and tools across national boundaries and between groups of experts, activists and laypeople. Empirically grounded in medical, news media and feminist sources, as well as ethnographic fieldwork, they reveal the practical similarities that existed between countries with officially different political regimes as well as local differences within the two countries. Taken as a whole, the special issue shows that the border between France and Britain was more porous than is typically apparent from nationally-focused studies: ideas, people and devices travelled in both directions; communication strategies were always able to evade the rule of law; contraceptive practices were surprisingly similar in both countries; and religion loomed large in debates on both sides of the channel.

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This special issue began as a conference held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, in September 2016, and supported by CRASSH and Wellcome (106553) and (088708). We thank the four anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on drafts of this introduction; and all those who participated at the conference, especially Salim Al-Gailani, Jennie Bristow, Fabrice Cahen, Virginie De Luca Barrusse, Lucy Delap, Katherine Dow, Sarah Franklin, Lesley Hall, Cathy Herbrand, Nick Hopwood, Bibia Pavard, Anne-Françoise Praz, Sally Sheldon, Simon Szreter, Laurence Tain and Isabelle Ville.



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1. Barthold, Charles and Corvellec, Hervé, ‘“For the Women”: In Memoriam Simone Veil (1927–2017)’, Gender, Work & Organization, 25, 6 (2018), 593600.

2. Science Museum Press Office, ‘Science Museum Celebrates 40 Years of IVF With New Exhibition’, 30 May 2018,, accessed 2 December 2018.

3. BBC News, ‘Louise Brown: World’s First IVF Baby’s Family Archive Unveiled’, 25 July 2018,, accessed 2 December 2018.

4. Mary O’Brien, The Politics of Reproduction (Toronto: York University, 1976); Hilary Homans (ed.), The Sexual Politics of Reproduction (Aldershot: Gower, 1985); Patricia Spallone, Beyond Conception: The New Politics of Reproduction (Basingstoke: Macmillan Education, 1989); Ken Arnold, Lesley Hall and Julia Sheppard, Birth and Breeding: The Politics of Reproduction in Modern Britain (London: Wellcome Trust, 1993); Faye D. Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp, Conceiving the New World Order: Global Politics of Reproduction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Rickie Solinger, Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America (New York: New York University Press, 2007); Isabelle Engeli, Les politiques de la reproduction: les politiques d’avortement et de procréation médicalement assistée en France et en Suisse [The politics of reproduction: the politics of abortion and medically assisted reproduction in France and Switzerland] (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2010); Solinger, Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); Laura Briggs, How All Politics Became Reproductive Politics: From Welfare Reform to Foreclosure to Trump (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017).

5. Ginsburg, Faye and Rapp, Rayna, ‘The Politics of Reproduction’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 20 (1991), 311343. See also Rene Almeling, ‘Reproduction’, Annual Review of Sociology, 41 (2015), 423–42.

6. On reproductive politics in colonial and postcolonial settings: Owen White, Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa 1895–1960 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999); Amy Kaler, Running After Pills: Politics, Gender, and Contraception in Colonial Zimbabwe (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2003); Lynn M. Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction, and the State in Kenya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003); Susanne M. Klausen, Race, Maternity, and the Politics of Birth Control in South Africa, 1910–39 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Sarah Hodges (ed.), Reproductive Health in India: History, Politics, Controversies (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2006); Sanjam Ahluwalia, Reproductive Restraints: Birth Control in India, 1877–1947 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008); Hodges, Contraception, Colonialism and Commerce: Birth Control in South India, 1920–40 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008); Karl Ittmann, Dennis D. Cordell and Gregory H. Maddox (eds), The Demographics of Empire: The Colonial Order and the Creation of Knowledge (Columbus: Ohio University Press, 2010) Emmanuelle Saada, Empire’s Children: Race, Filiation, and Citizenship in the French Colonies (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012); Juanita De Barros, Reproducing the British Caribbean: Sex, Gender, and Population Politics after Slavery (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); Nicole C. Bourbonnais, Birth Control in the Decolonizing Caribbean: Reproductive Politics and Practice on Four Islands, 1930–70 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Philippa Levine, ‘Imperial encounters’, in Nick Hopwood, Rebecca Flemming and Lauren Kassell (eds), Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 485–97.

7. See, for example, Quirke, Viviane and Gaudillière, Jean-Paul, ‘The Era of Biomedicine: Science, Medicine, and Public Health in Britain and France after the Second World War’, Medical History, 52 (2008), 441452.

8. See Latham, Melanie, Regulating Reproduction: A Century of Conflict in Britain and France (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002).

9. On the French tradition of historical demography, see, for example, Paul-André Rosental, L’intelligence démographique: sciences et politiques des populations en France, 1930–60[Demographic intelligence: The science and politics of population in France, 1930–60] (Paris: Jacob, 2003); Rosental, ‘The Novelty of an Old Genre: Louis Henry and the Founding of Historical Demography’, Population, 58, 1 (2003), 97–130.

10. Fisher, Kate, Birth Control, Sex, and Marriage in Britain 1918–60 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Simon Szreter, Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain, 1860–1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Szreter and Kate Fisher, Sex Before the Sexual Revolution, Intimate Life in England, 1918–63 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

11. Porter, Roy and Hall, Lesley, The Facts of Life: The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650–1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Lutz D.H. Sauerteig and Roger Davidson (eds), Shaping Sexual Knowledge: A Cultural History of Sex Education in Twentieth-Century Europe (London: Routledge, 2009); Manon Parry, Broadcasting Birth Control: Mass Media and Family Planning (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013); Christian Bonah and Anja Laukötter (eds), ‘Screening Diseases: Films on Sex Hygiene in Germany and France in the first half of the 20th Century’, a special issue of Gesnerus, 72, 1 (2015); Nick Hopwood, Peter Murray Jones, Lauren Kassell and Jim Secord (eds), ‘Communicating Reproduction’, a special issue of Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 89, 3 (2015); Jesse Olszynko-Gryn and Patrick Ellis (eds), a special issue of ‘Reproduction on Film’, British Journal for the History of Science, 50, 3 (2017).

12. For recent examples of the comparative approach to reproduction: Caroline Rusterholz, ‘Reproductive Behaviour and Contraceptive Practices in Comparative Perspective, Switzerland (1955–70)’, The History of the Family,20 (2015), 41–68; Rusterholz, Deux enfants c’est déjà pas mal. Famille et fécondité en Suisse (195570) [Two children is not too bad. Family and fertility in Switzerland (1955–70)] (Lausanne: Antipodes, 2017); Yuliya Hilevych and Caroline Rusterholz, “‘Two Children to Make Ends Meet”: The Ideal Family Size, Parental Responsibilities and Costs of Children on Two Sides of the Iron Curtain During the Post-War Fertility Decline’, History of the Family, 23, 3 (2018), 408–25; Rusterholz, ‘Religion and contraceptive in comparative perspective: Switzerland, 1950–70’, in Alana Harris (ed.), The Schism of ’68: Catholicism, Contraception and ‘ Humanae Vitae’in Europe, 1945–75 (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 99–119.

13. McLaren, Angus, A History of Contraception from Antiquity to the Present Day (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 181182; Alison Bashford, Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth (New York: Columbia University Press 2014); Bashford and Joyce E. Chaplin (eds), The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus: Rereading the Principles of Population (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016); Lesley Hall, ‘Movements to separate sex and reproduction’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 427–41.

14. The French concern with population loss, though not grounded in demographic reality, began even earlier: Blum, Carol, Population, Reproduction, and Power in Eighteenth-Century France (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).

15. Francis Ronsin, La grève des ventres: propagande néo-malthusienne et baisse de la natalité française, XIXe-XXe siècles[The bellies strike: neo-Malthusian propaganda and the decline in the French birth rate, 19th–20th centuries] (Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1980); Marie-Monique Huss, ‘Pronatalism in the Inter-War Period in France’, Journal of Contemporary History, 25, 1 (1990), 39–68; Andres Horacio Reggiani, ‘Procreating France: The Politics of Demography, 1919–45’, French Historical Studies, 19, 3 (1996), 725–54; Virginie De Luca Barrusse and Harriet Coleman, ‘The “Denatality Complex”: The Demographic Argument in the Birth Control Debate in France, 1956–67’, Population, 73, 1 (2018), 9–32.

16. Ledbetter, Rosanna, A History of the Malthusian League, 1877–1927 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1986).

17. McLaren, Angus, Sexuality and Social Order: The Debate over the Fertility of Women and Workers in France, 1770–1920 (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1983), 93109.

18. Ledbetter, op. cit. (note 16); Hall, op. cit. (note 13).

19. Andrea Tone, Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America (New York: Macmillan, 2001).

20. Latham, op. cit. (note 8).

21. Ronsin, op. cit. (note 15).

22. Alison Bashford and Philippa Levine (eds), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Dagmar Herzog, Unlearning Eugenics: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Disability in Post-Nazi Europe (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2018).

23. Pauline M.H. Mazumdar, Eugenics, Human Genetics, and Human Failings: The Eugenics Society, its Sources and its Critics in Britain (London: Routledge, 1992); Diane B. Paul, Controlling Human Heredity: 1896 to the Present (Amherst: Humanity Books, 1995).

24. William H. Schneider, Quality and Quantity: The Quest for Biological Regeneration in Twentieth-Century France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Richard Soloway, Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth Century Britain (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Alain Drouard, ‘Aux origines de l’eugénisme en France: Le néo-Malthusianisme (1896–1914)’ [Origins of eugenics in France: Neo-Malthusianism (1896–1914)], Population, 47 (1992), 435–59; Anne Carol, L’eugénisme en France. Les médecins face à la procréation [Eugenics in France: medicine confronts procreation] (Paris: Flammarion, 1995); Lucy Bland and Lesley A. Hall, ‘Eugenics in Britain: the view from the metropole’, in Bashford and Levine (eds), op. cit. (note 22), 213–27; Richard S. Fogarty and Michael A. Osborne, ‘Eugenics in France and the colonies’, in Bashford and Levine (eds), op. cit. (note 22), 332–46; Paul-André Rosental, Destins de l’eugénisme [Eugenic destiny] (Paris: Seuil, 2016).

25. Offen, Karen, ‘Depopulation, Nationalism, and Feminism in fin-de-siècle France’, American Historical Review, 89, 3 (1984), 648676; 654.

26. Accampo, Elinor, Blessed Motherhood, Bitter Fruit: Nelly Roussel and the Politics of Female Pain in Third Republic France (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 5.

27. Offen, op. cit. (note 25); Accampo, op. cit. (note 26). See also Elinor Accampo, ‘The Gendered Nature of Contraception in France: Neo-Malthusianism, 1900–20’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 34, 2 (2003), 235–62; Anne Cova, Féminismes et néo-malthusianismes sous la III République: ‘La liberté de la maternité’ [Feminism and neo-Mathusianism during the Third Republic: ‘The freedom of motherhood’] (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2011).

28. Davin, Anne, ‘Imperialism and Motherhood’, History Workshop, 5, 1 (1978), 965.

29. Soloway, op. cit. (note 24).

30. Hanley, Anne, Medicine, Knowledge and Venereal Diseases in England, 1886–1916 (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

31. Claire L. Jones, “‘Under the Covers?” Commerce, Contraceptives and Consumers in England and Wales, 1880–1960’, Social History of Medicine, 29, 4 (2016), 734–56; Ben Mechen, “‘Closer together”: Durex condoms and contraceptive consumerism in 1970s Britain’, in Jennifer Evans and Ciara Meehan (eds), Perceptions of Pregnancy from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 213–36; Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, ‘Technologies of contraception and abortion’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 535–51.

32. Chesler, Ellen, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007).

33. Geppert, Alexander C.T., ‘Divine Sex, Happy Marriage, Regenerated Nation: Marie Stopes’s Marital Manual Married Love, and the Making of a Best Seller, 1918–55’, Journal of the History of Sexuality, 8, 3 (1998), 389433.

34. Fabrice Cahen, Gouverner les moeurs. La lutte contre l’avortement en France, 1890–1950[Governing mores. The struggle against abortion in France, 1890–1950] (Paris: INED, 2016). See also, Virginie De Luca Barrusse, Les familles nombreuses: une question démographique, un enjeu politiue. France (1880–1940) [Large families: A demographic question, a political issue (France, 1880–1940)], (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2008).

35. Virginie De Luca Barrusse, ‘Natalisme et hygiénisme en France de 1900 à 1940. L’exemple de la lutte antivénérienne’, [Pronatalism and social hygiene in France, 1900–40. The fight against venereal disease] Population, 64, 3 (2009), 531–60.

36. Hall, op. cit. (note 13).

37. Cohen, Deborah, ‘Private Lives in Public Spaces: Marie Stopes, the Mothers’ Clinics and the Practice of Contraception’, History Workshop Journal, 35, 1 (1993), 95116; Peter Neushul, ‘Marie C. Stopes and the Popularization of Birth Control Technology’, Technology and Culture, 39, 2 (1998), 245–72; Clare Debenham, Birth Control and the Rights of Women: Post-Suffrage Feminism in the Early Twentieth Century (London: IB Tauris, 2014).

38. Soloway, Richard A., ‘The “Perfect Contraceptive”: Eugenics and Birth Control Research in Britain and America in the Interwar Years’, Journal of Contemporary History, 30, 4 (1995), 637664; Lara V. Marks, Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010); Ilana Löwy, “‘Sexual Chemistry” Before the Pill: Science, Industry and Chemical Contraceptives, 1920–60’, British Journal for the History of Science, 44, 2 (2011), 245–74; Caroline Rusterholz, ‘Testing the Gräfenberg Ring in Interwar Britain: Norman Haire, Helena Wright, and the Debate Over Statistical Evidence, Side Effects, and Intra-Uterine Contraception’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 72, 4 (2017), 448–67; Natasha Szuhan, ‘Sex in the Laboratory: The Family Planning Association and Contraceptive Science in Britain, 1929–59’, British Journal of History of Science in Britain, 51, 3 (2018), 487–510.

39. Kate Fisher, op. cit. (note 10).

40. Weeks, Jeffrey, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800, 3rd edn (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013), 87; Olszynko-Gryn, op. cit. (note 31).

41. Moscucci, Ornella, ‘Holistic Obstetrics: The Origins of “Natural Childbirth” in Britain’, Postgraduate Medical Journal, 79, 929 (2003), 168173. On postwar developments: Salim Al-Gailani, ‘Drawing Back the Curtain: Natural Childbirth on Screen in 1950s Britain’, British Journal for the History of Science 50, 3 (2017), 473–93; Paula A. Michaels, ‘Comrades in the Labor Room: The Lamaze Method of Childbirth Preparation and France’s Cold War Home Front, 1951–57’, American Historical Review, 115, 4 (2010), 1031–60; Michaels, Lamaze: An International History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

42. Cahen, Fabrice, ‘De l’efficacité des politiques publiques. La lutte contre l’avortement ‘criminel’ en France, 1890–1950’ [The effectiveness of public policies. The fight against ‘criminal’ abortion in France, 1890–1950]’, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, 58 (2011), 90117.

43. Hodgson, Dennis, ‘Abortion, Family Planning, and Population Policy: Prospects for the Common-Ground Approach’, Population and Development Review, 35, 3 (2009), 479518, 493.

44. Cahen, op. cit. (note 34).

45. Soloway, Richard, Birth Control and the Population Question in England 1877–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982), 233255.

46. Martine Sevegrand, ‘Limiter les naissances. Le cas de conscience des catholiques français (1880–1939)’ [Limiting births. The case of French Catholics’ conscience (1880–1939)], Vingtième Siècle, Revue d’Histoire,30 (1991), 40–54; Sevegrand, L’amour en toutes lettres. Questions à l’abbé Viollet sur la sexualité (192443) [Love in letters. Questions to Father Viollet on sexuality (1924–43)] (Paris: Albin Michel, 1996).

47. Hall, op. cit. (note 13).

48. Huss, op. cit. (note 15).

49. Reggiani, op. cit. (note 15).

50. Reggiani, op. cit. (note 15), 731.

51. Brookes, Barbara, Abortion in England, 1900–67 (London: Croom Helm, 1988); Stephen Brooke, “‘A New World for Women”? Abortion Law Reform in Britain During the 1930s’, American Historical Review, 106, 2 (2001), 431–59; Emma L. Jones, ‘Attitudes to Abortion in the Era of Reform: Evidence from the Abortion Law Reform Association Correspondence’, Women’s History Review, 20, 2 (2011), 283–98.

52. Lewis, Jane, The Politics of Motherhood: Child and Maternal Welfare in England, 1900–39 (London: Croom Helm, 1980), 209; Stephen Brooke, Sexual Politics: Sexuality, Family Planning, and the British Left from the 1880s to the Present Day (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 95.

53. Keown, John, Abortion, Doctors and the Law: Some Aspects of the Legal Regulation of Abortion in England from 1803 to 1982 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Barbara Brookes and Paul Roth, ‘Rex v. Bourne and the medicalization of abortion’, in Michael Clark and Catherine Crawford (eds), Legal Medicine in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 314–43; Sally Sheldon, Beyond Control: Medical Power and Abortion Law (London: Pluto, 1997).

54. Leathard, Audrey, The Fight for Family Planning: Development of Family Planning Service in Britain, 1921–74 (London: Macmillan, 1980).

55. Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse, ‘The Demand for Pregnancy Testing: The Aschheim-Zondek Reaction, Diagnostic Versatility, and Laboratory Services in 1930s Britain’, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 47 (2014), 233247.

56. Cahen, op. cit. (note 34). The story of Giraud was dramatised in the 1988 film, Une affaire de femmes (Story of women), directed by Claude Chabrol and staring Isabelle Huppert; see Rosemarie Scullion, ‘Family Fictions and Reproductive Realities in Vichy France: Claude Chabrol’s Une Affaire de femmes’, Esprit Créateur, 33, 1 (1993), 85–103.

57. Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, ‘Pregnancy Testing in Britain, $c$ . 1900–67: Laboratories, Animals and Demand from Doctors, Patients and Consumers’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2014), 131–49.

58. Rusterholz, this issue.

59. Leathard, op. cit. (note 54), 224.

60. Carole Dyhouse, Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (London: Zed, 2013). See also Lesley A. Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880, 2nd edn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Weeks, op. cit. (note 40).

61. Cook, Hera, The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex, and Contraception 1800–75 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 288.

62. Weeks, op. cit. (note 40).

63. Sally Sheldon, Gayle Davis, Jane O’Neill and Clare Parker, ‘The Abortion Act (1967): A Biography’, Legal Studies (2018), 1–18, doi:10.1017/lst.2018.28. On abortion law reform in Scotland: Gayle Davis and Roger Davidson, “‘A Fifth Freedom” or “Hideous Atheistic Expediency”? The Medical Community and Abortion Law Reform in Scotland, $c$ . 1960–75’, Medical History, 50, 1 (2006), 29–48.

64. Paintin, David, Abortion Law Reform in Britain 1964–2003: A Personal Account by David Paintin (Stratford: BPAS, 2015), 6674.

65. Rossiter, Ann, Ireland’s Hidden Diaspora: The ‘Abortion Trail’ and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980–2000 (London: IASC, 2009); Christabelle Sethna, ‘From Heathrow Airport to Harley Street: the ALRA and the travel of nonresident women for abortion services in Britain’, in Sethna and Gayle Davis (eds), Abortion across Borders: Transnational Travel and Access to Abortion Services (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), 46–71.

66. Sheldon et al., op. cit. (note 53).

67. Clarke, Alan, ‘Moral Reform and the Anti-Abortion Movement’, Sociological Review, 35 (1987), 123149.

68. Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, ‘The Feminist Appropriation of Pregnancy Testing in 1970s Britain’, Women’s History Review,Epub ahead of print: 11 July 2017,

69. The final report of the Lane Committee, which had been charged with investigating the 1967 Act, upheld it unaltered in 1974: Ashley Wivel, ‘Abortion Policy and the Politics on the Lane Committee of Enquiry, 1971–74’, Social History of Medicine, 11, 1 (1998), 109–35.

70. Joni Lovenduski and Vicky Randall, Contemporary Feminist Politics: Women and Power in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1993).

71. Sarah Franklin, ‘Feminism and reproduction’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 627–39.

72. Bibia Pavard, Si je veux, quand je veux. Contraception et avortement dans la société française (195679) [If I want, when I want: contraception and abortion in France (1956–79)] (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2012); Sandrine Garcia, Mères sous influence: De la cause des femmes à la cause des enfants[Mothers under the influence: From a woman’s cause to a child’s cause] (Paris: Découverte, 2011).

73. Pavard, this issue.

74. Pavard, this issue; Rusterholz, this issue.

75. Bibia Pavard, Mai 68 (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2018).

76. Bibia Pavard, Florence Rochefort and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, Les lois Veil: Contraception 1974, IVG 1975[The Veil’s laws: Contraception 1974, Abortion 1975] (Paris: Armand Colin, 2012).

77. Pavard, this issue. In French overseas territories, women of colour were forced to abort and coerced into sterilisation; few metropolitan feminists took notice. See Françoise Vergès, Le ventre des femmes: capitalisme, racialisation, féminisme[Women’s womb: capitalism, racialization, feminism] (Paris: Albin Michel, 2017); Vèrges, ‘On Women and their Wombs: Capitalism, Racialization, Feminism’, Critical Times, 1, 1 (2018), 263–67.

78. Two landmark abortion trials in 1972, in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, also helped to bring feminist discourse into the mainstream: Jennifer L. Sweatman, “‘It is not your personal concern”: challenging expertise in the campaign to legalize abortion in France’, in Shannon Stettner, Katrina Ackerman, Kristin Burnett and Travis Hayin (eds), Transcending Borders: Abortion in the Past and Present (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 103–119.

79. Romain Lecler, ‘Le succès d’ Histoires d’A, “film sur l’avortement”: Une mobilisation croisée de ressources cinématographiques et militantes (enquête)’ [The success of Histoires d’A, ‘film on abortion’: a cross-mobilisation of cinematic and militant resources (survey)], Terrains & travaux, 2, 13 (2007), 51–72; Hélène Fleckinger, ‘Histoires d’A: Un moment de la lutte pour la liberté de l’avortement’ [Histoires d’A: a moment in the struggle for abortion freedom], La revue documentaire, 22–3 (2010), 181–95.

80. Jean-Yves Le Naour and Catherine Valenti, Histoire de l’avortement (XIXe–XXe siècle)[A history of abortion, 19th–20th century] (Paris: Seuil, 2015). Post-1975 France, in turn, became a popular destination, second only to Britain, for Spanish women seeking abortions: Agata Ignaciuk, ‘Abortion travel and the cost of reproductive choice in Spain’, in Sethna and Davis, op. cit. (note 65), 231–51.

81. Martin Durham, Sex and Politics: The Family and Morality in the Thatcher Years (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991); Sarah Franklin, Celia Lury and Jackie Stacey (eds), Off-centre: Feminism and Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1991); Naomi Pfeffer, The Stork and the Syringe: A Political History of Reproductive Medicine (Cambridge: Polity, 1993); Franklin, Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception (London: Routledge, 1997); Nick Hopwood, ‘Artificial fertilization’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 581–96.

82. Katherine Dow, “‘Now She’s Just an Ordinary Baby”: The Birth of IVF in the British Press’, Sociology, Epub ahead of print: 22 February 2018,

83. Jane Pilcher, ‘Gillick and after: children and sex in the 1980s and 1990s’, in Jane Pilcher and Stephen Wagg (eds), Thatcher’s Children? Politics, Childhood and Society in the 1980s and 1990s (London: Routledge, 1996); Kathleen Kiernan, Hilary Land and Jane Lewis, Lone Motherhood in Twentieth-Century Britain: From Footnote to Front Page (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998); Lisa Arai, Teenage Pregnancy: The Making and Unmaking of a Problem (Bristol: Policy, 2009); Pat Thane and Tanya Evans, Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

84. Salim Al-Gailani, ‘Making Birth Defects “Preventable”: Pre-Conceptional Vitamin Supplements and the Politics of Risk Reduction’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 47 (2014), 278–89; Jesse Olszynko-Gryn, ‘Thin Blue Lines: Clearblue and the Rise of Pregnancy Testing in British Cinema and Television’, British Journal for the History of Science, 50, 3 (2017), 495–520. On parallel developments in America: Jenna Healey, ‘Sooner or Later: Age, Pregnancy and the Reproductive Revolution in Late Twentieth Century America’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Yale University, 2016).

85. Verginia Berrige, AIDS in the UK: The Making of Policy, 1918–94 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996); Hannah J. Elizabeth, ‘Love Carefully and Without “Over-Bearing Fear”: The Persuasive Power of Authenticity in Late 1980s British AIDS Education Material for Adolescents’, Social History of Medicine, forthcoming. French virologist Luc Montagnier isolated HIV and linked it to AIDS in the 1980s. On the French history: Mirko D. Grmek, History of AIDS: Emergence and Origins of a Modern Pandemic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Patrice Pinell (ed.), Une épidémie politique: la lutte contre le SIDA en France, (1981–96) [A political epidemic: the struggle against AIDS in France (1981–96)] (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2002).

86. Sarah Franklin, Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007); Miguel García-Sancho, ‘Animal Breeding in the Age of Biotechnology: The Investigative Pathway Behind the Cloning of Dolly the Sheep’, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 37, 3 (2015), 282–304. For the more general relevance of animal breeding to human reproductive medicine, including in France and Britain: Sarah Wilmot (ed.), ‘Between the Farm and the Clinic: Agriculture and Reproductive Technology in the Twentieth Century’, a special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 38, 2 (2007).

87. Michael Mulkay, The Embryo Research Debate: Science and the Politics of Reproduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Duncan Wilson, A History of British Bioethics (Manchester: Blackwell, 2014), 140–86.

88. Martin H. Johnson and Nick Hopwood, ‘Modern law and regulation’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 597–611.

89. Carine Vassy, ‘From a Genetic Innovation to Mass Health Programmes: The Diffusion of Down’s Syndrome Prenatal Screening and Diagnostic Techniques in France’, Social Science & Medicine, 63 (2006), 2041–51; Vassy Carine, Sophia Rosman and Bénédicte Rousseaua, ‘From Policy Making to Service use: Down’s Syndrome Antenatal Screening in England, France and the Netherlands’, Social Science & Medicine, 106 (2014), 67–74; Fabrice Cahen and Jerome Wijland, Inventer le don de sperme. Entretiens avec Georges David, fondateur des CECOS[Inventing sperm donation. An interview with Georges David, founder of CECOS] (Paris: Editions Matériologiques, 2016); Cahen ‘Obstacles to the establishment of a policy to combat infertility in France, c. 1920–50’, in Gayle Davis and Tracey Loughran (eds), A Handbook of Infertility in History: Approaches, Contexts and Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 199–219.

90. Ilana Löwy, ‘Assistance médicale à la procreation (AMP) et le traitement de la stérilité masculine en France’ [Medically assisted procreation (MAP) and the treatment of male infertility in France], Sciences Sociales et Santé,18, 4 (2000), 75–104; Laurence Tain, ‘L’Hôpital, la femme et le médecin: la construction des trajectoires de fécondation in vitro’ [Hospital, woman and doctor: the construction of IVF trajectories], Population, 56, 5 (2001), 811–44; Tain, ‘Corps reproducteur et techniques procréatives: images, brouillages, montages et remue-ménage’ [Reproductive bodies and reproductive techniques: images, interference, mounts and bustle], Cahiers du Genre, 34 (2003), 171–92; Löwy, ‘Prenatal diagnosis, surveillance and risk’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 567–79; Löwy, Tangled Diagnoses: Prenatal Testing, Women, and Risk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

91. Olszynko-Gryn, op. cit. (note 31).

92. Sharon Tabberer, ‘Moving Between the Symbolic and the Mundane: The Introduction of the Abortion Pill RU486 into the NHS’ (unpublished PhD thesis, Anglia Polytechnic University, 2000).

93. Adele Clarke and Theresa Montini, ‘The Many Faces of RU486: Tales of Situated Knowledges and Technological Contestations’, Science, Technology, & Human Values, 18, 1 (1993), 42–78; Carole Joffe and Tracy A. Weitz, ‘Normalizing the Exceptional: Incorporating the “Abortion Pill” into Mainstream Medicine’, Social Science & Medicine, 56 (2003), 2353–66.

94. Virginia Husting and Leslie King, ‘Francophobia, Anti-Americanism: Narratives of the Trans-Atlantic Other in French and US News on Abortion-Related Issues’, Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, 5, 4 (2005), 1–25.

95. Sheldon, Sally, ‘The medical framework and early medical abortion in the UK: How can a state control swallowing?’, in Cook, Rebecca J., Erdman, Joanna N. and Dickens, Bernard M. (eds), Abortion Law in Transnational Perspective: Cases and Controversies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), 189209.

96. Franklin, Sarah, Biological Relatives: IVF, Stem Cells and the Future of Kinship (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

97. See, for example, Herbrand, Cathy and Dimond, Rebecca, ‘Mitochondrial Donation, Patient Engagement and Narratives of Hope’, Sociology of Health and Illness, 40, 4 (2017), 623638; Nick Hopwood, ‘Globalization’, in Hopwood et al., op. cit. (note 6), 641–55.

This special issue began as a conference held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, in September 2016, and supported by CRASSH and Wellcome (106553) and (088708). We thank the four anonymous reviewers who provided helpful feedback on drafts of this introduction; and all those who participated at the conference, especially Salim Al-Gailani, Jennie Bristow, Fabrice Cahen, Virginie De Luca Barrusse, Lucy Delap, Katherine Dow, Sarah Franklin, Lesley Hall, Cathy Herbrand, Nick Hopwood, Bibia Pavard, Anne-Françoise Praz, Sally Sheldon, Simon Szreter, Laurence Tain and Isabelle Ville.



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