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Women's Health: A History

Roe V. Wade

In 1970, Jane Roe (a fictional name used in court documents to protect the plaintiff’s identity) filed a lawsuit against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, where she resided, challenging a Texas law making abortion illegal except by a doctor’s orders to save a woman’s life. In her lawsuit, Roe alleged that the state laws were unconstitutionally vague and abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. (Continue reading from Oyez)

Podcasts on Women's Health

Planned Parenthood V. Casey

The Pennsylvania legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989. Among the new provisions, the law required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. A federal appeals court upheld all the provisions except for the husband notification requirement. (Continue reading from Oyez)

FDA’s 1977 guideline, "General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs,"

This guideline recommended excluding women with childbearing potential from participating in phase 1 and early phase 2 clinical studies until reproductive toxicity (segment 2) studies were conducted and some evidence of effectiveness had become available. The recommended exclusion was broadly applied to any "premenopausal female capable of becoming pregnant," but explicitly did not apply to women with life threatening diseases. (Continue reading from FDA)

Key Women in Women's Health History

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger believed that the only way to change the law was to break it. Starting in the 1910s, Sanger actively challenged federal and state Comstock laws to bring birth control information and contraceptive devices to women. Read More...

Elizabeth Blackwell

The first woman in America to receive a medical degree, Elizabeth Blackwell championed the participation of women in the medical profession and ultimately opened her own medical college for women. Read More...

Gertrude Tenderich

The tampon as we know it today was first invented in 1929 by Dr. Earle Haas. Seven years later, Denver businesswoman Gertrude Tenderich bought the patent and founded Tampax Sales Corporation – where she served as president. Read More...

Heather Booth

"Jane" was an underground network in Chicago that counseled and helped women who wanted to have abortions. The service was launched in 1965 by Heather Booth, then a 19-year-old student at the University of Chicago. Her friend's sister was pregnant and desperately wanted an abortion. Booth found a doctor who was willing to perform the procedure secretly. Read More...

Nancy G. Brinker

Nancy G. Brinker is regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Her journey began with a simple promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear and hopelessness caused by this disease. In one generation, the organization that bears Susan's name has changed the world. Read More...

Dr. Charlotte Ellertson

Dr. Charlotte Ellertson was a brilliant thinker and fearless leader. She founded Ibis Reproductive Health in 2002 with the vision of a dynamic organization that could bridge academic research and women’s immediate health needs. Read More...

Ina May Gaskin

A certified professional midwife who has attended more than 1,200 births, Ina May Gaskin is known as the “mother of authentic midwifery.” Read More...

Women Excluded from Clinical Trials 

The importance of considering the differences between the male and female sex in clinical decision-making is crucial. However, it has been acknowledged in recent decades that clinical trials have not always adequately enrolled women or analyzed sex-specific differences in the data. As these deficiencies have hindered the progress of understanding women’s response to medications, agencies in the United States have worked towards the inclusion of women in clinical trials and appropriate analysis of sex-specific data from clinical trials. (Continue reading from U.S. National Library of Medicine)