Proven and the ZETs. Conceiving contraception in state-socialist Poland, c. 1957-1970
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This article analyses the panorama of contraceptive technologies in Poland between the late 1950s and early 1970s. During this period, following the legalization of abortion for social reasons in 1956, the popularization of contraception became a public health campaign, which, at least officially, enjoyed direct support from the communist authorities. Using archival sources, popular medical literature and the press from this period, I trace the trajectories of female barrier methods and spermicides, the production and distribution of which was coordinated by Securitas, an enterprise funded by the Polish Society for Conscious Motherhood, the state-sponsored family planning organisation. This organisation used British and international family planning organisations to legitimise the contraceptive technologies it provided and present them as effective and scientific. The availability and quality of these contraceptive products fluctuated in the centrally planned economy, and were inscribed with at times contradictory values. In sum, the circulation of contraceptive technologies during the late 1950s and 1960s was shaped by concurrent processes of innovation and various forms of maladjustment, and these processes had, in fact, little relationship with communist authorities’ declarations of support for contraception as an alternative to abortion.
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