From lemon rinds to knitting needles: A visual history of abortion and birth control

MOTHER SHOWER SYRINGES, which evolved from the vaginal douche, were used immediately after sexual intercourse in a desperate try to wash the sperm out. Today, we know how fast sperm enters the uterus, where it cannot be reached by any vaginal douching. Even so, this was one of the very few methods of contraception at that time.MOTHER SHOWER SYRINGES, which evolved from the vaginal douche, were used immediately after sexual intercourse in a desperate try to wash the sperm out. Today, we know how fast sperm enters the uterus, where it cannot be reached by any vaginal douching. Even so, this was one of the very few methods of contraception at that time.

Eugene Reznik via Hopes&Fears:

“On Abortion & Contraception History,” the first chapter from photographer Laia Abril’s long-term project On Misogyny, published by Hopes&Fears for the first time, pictures centuries of gadgets meant to delay or terminate the roughly 15 pregnancies that a woman might have “under natural circumstances.”

For most of recorded history, the burden of family planning has been placed on women, and due to restrictive laws founded on religious or demographic agendas, methods were ineffectual, harmful or even deadly. Prohibition, which persists in many countries around the world, drove women to futile rituals and back-alley abortionists. Only over the last 60 years, roughly, have there been safe and effective alternatives, and though the lives and survival rates of women have greatly improved, some continue the fight to limit their accessibility.

Many of the objects pictured here are not what they appear to be—to evade prosecution, the most important requirement for the abortionist was to avoid raising suspicions. Their tools, as a result, are repurposed, makeshift, largely medically and hygienically inadequate. Shockingly, some of these objects have modern equivalents, or are even available in stores and in use today.

An image of the procedure itself may be powerful, but the revulsion it would raise would likely lead the viewer to turn away and leave little impression. The documentary still-life, a growing trend in contemporary photography, absent of the human element, otherwise offers the viewer a point of entry and empathy to consider these objects as we might use them ourselves.

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FISH BLADDER CONDOM was the earliest material for prophylactics, typically made from catfish and sturgeon in the Austrian region, and commonly used until the 19th century. Cleaned, split and dried lamb intestines were also popular for this purpose. Since neither material was very elastic, the condom had to be secured to the penis with a ribbon or a rubber ring. Furthermore, they were expensive, and after each use they were washed, carefully dried, rubbed with oil and bran to prevent cracking, and used again.

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VAGINAL DOUCHE, the ‘Irrigateur Eguisier,’ was one of the most common contraceptive methods in the 19th century. It consisted of a cylindrical supply vessel made out of metal or porcelain, from which a rinsing fluid would pass through a controllable pump system to a hose. The woman would usually lie across the bed, on her back, with her bottom in line with the edge of the bed. The woman inserts the main tube into her vagina, opens the tap, and the rinsing fluid would flow in from the irrigator. The used fluid is conducted away by the waterproof pan, over the edge of the bed into a bucket.

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FEMALE CONDOM, the ‘Femidom,’ first developed in the 1980s, was based on the function of condoms and intended to provide women with a barrier method they could use to protect themselves regardless of the partner’s cooperation. Though initially greeted with a great deal of praise and considerable efforts to market it, this product was never a success and soon disappeared from the market in most countries because of its relatively high price for a single application, difficulty in terms of use, and the squeaking sounds they make.

MOTHER SHOWER SYRINGES, which evolved from the vaginal douche, were used immediately after sexual intercourse in a desperate try to wash the sperm out. Today, we know how fast sperm enters the uterus, where it cannot be reached by any vaginal douching. Even so, this was one of the very few methods of contraception at that time.

MOTHER SHOWER SYRINGES, which evolved from the vaginal douche, were used immediately after sexual intercourse in a desperate try to wash the sperm out. Today, we know how fast sperm enters the uterus, where it cannot be reached by any vaginal douching. Even so, this was one of the very few methods of contraception at that time.

See more at Hopes&Fears.