Thursday, May 1, 2008

I. Dowbiggin's "The Sterilization Movement and Global Fertility in the Twentieth Century"

Ian R. Dowbiggin is Professor of History and Chair, Department of History, University of Prince Edward Island. He is the author of Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in 19th C. France (1991), Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940 (1997), Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life (1999) and A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America (2003).

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Sterilization Movement and Global Fertility in the Twentieth Century, and reported the following:
If you turn to page 99 of my new book you go back in time to the 1950s when America was in the midst of a baby boom and birth control advocates were feverishly working on the oral contraceptive Pill. In a few short years activists like Margaret Sanger and John Rock would be celebrating the Pill as the solution to the perennial problem facing women and their partners: how to plan parenthood.

Little did they know that in no time at all the glamor of the Pill would wear off and the favorite form of contraception would be sterilization--vasectomy for men and tubal ligation for women. My book documents how that revolution in human reproductive behavior was launched and how it helped change the course of history. As governments grapple with the consequences of aging societies, the product of decades of mass contraception, policy-makers might be wondering: how did this all happen? Where have all the babies gone?

My book provides the answer. It tells the story of the men and women who convinced the world that sterilization was the best means of contraception for a planet wracked by an unprecedented population explosion. I also argue that the international community needs to reassess its approach to reproductive health issues in the 21st century. If not, depopulation could prove to be as big a problem as global warming to governments in the coming years.
Learn more about The Sterilization Movement and Global Fertility in the Twentieth Century at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue