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BIRTH CONTROL.

Aharon W. Zorea, BIRTH CONTROL. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 2012. (Health and medical issues today.) 216p. index. bibl. $58.00, ISBN 978-0313362545; e-book, ISBN 978-6613523426.

Greenwood's Health and Medical Issues Today series offers one-stop informational resources on controversial areas of health care. In this new volume, however, author Aharon Zorea, although he strives to consider a variety of perspectives, reveals an underlying conservative Catholic viewpoint that is especially disappointing in what purports to be a balanced presentation of differing views on birth controls history and controversies.

The book is divided into three sections: the first discusses the history of birth control in the United States; the second looks at modern controversies surrounding birch control; and the third comprises six appendices containing a selection of primary documents, mostly in excerpted form, that serve as helpful background information on the history and policy treated in the earlier sections of the book.

Section I is a serviceable overview of the history of birth control in the United States. Little time and attention are paid to the earliest forms of birth control, and no indigenous Americans are mentioned at all, but well-known players in early United States movements for and against birth control--Thomas Malthus, Richard Comstock, and Margaret Sanger--are well covered. The chapter on post-1945 birth control policy gives a clear and concise overview of policies and changes from the Eisenhower administration through the Reagan administration, and one of the real strengths of the book lies in Zorea's clear and insightful discussions of the roles and input of the Catholic Church.

Section II, which addresses a broad range of controversies surrounding birth control, is where the authors conservative point of view most visibly shows itself. For example, in his chapter on consumer protection, Zorea notes that, "Regardless of the rhetorical confidence, the truth remains that there are always side effects from birth control" (p.73), but he spends very little time on medical advances that have led to safer and more effective contraceptives. This omission is especially noticeable as the book is part of a series focused on health and medical issues. In his chapter on government policy, Zorea writes that "[g]overnment-sponsored family-planning programs almost always target the poor" (p. 92), although nowhere in the book is there a discussion of the limitations to contraceptive access faced by women in lower-income groups. These two examples are not isolated; most of the main concerns Zorea raises throughout the book reveal an authorial ambivalence toward birth control.

The conservative viewpoint informing Birth Control should make anyone cautious of using it as single, balanced source for information on birth control, but it is highly readable and provides a perspective on birth control seldom seen in academic discourse. If it is read in conjunction with other histories, such as Linda Gordon's Moral Property of Women, (1) may spark valuable conversations and useful debate.

Note

(1.) Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).

Reviewed by Erica Carlson Nicol

[Erica Carlson Nicol is the librarian for women's studies at Washington State University, Pullman.]
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Author:Nicol, Erica Carlson
Publication:Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2012
Words:519
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