Signal Boost: Reproductive Health Technology Healthcare in Our Hands #ECinOurHands
Recently, the Reproductive Health Technologies Project launched its new Tumblr-based campaign, Healthcare in Our Hands, “The place to celebrate and explore the new status of emergency contraception.” The site invites visitors to submit a photo of themselves with Plan B in their hands (or submit their stories about NOT having trouble getting EC). The RHTP says “your submission will help build RHTP’s map of where Plan B One-Step has been spotted on the shelf nationwide! You can also keep up with the campaign online by following the hashtags #ECOTC and #ECinOurHands on social media.”
As I describe in my book, the RHTP has been a leader in using the web for distributing information about emergency contraception and other reproductive technologies. The first version of the emergency contraception website, launched in 1995, was one of the first health information sites on the World Wide Web. More recently, the organization has entered into the arena of Web 2.0 and set up a Facebook page, joined Twitter, and now Tumblr, to disseminate its message, as well as collect stories from users. Since I’m a historian interested in digital humanities, I wonder what will happen to this user-generated content? Will it be preserved? Should it be? What will we do with it?
Also, from the perspective of the women’s health movement, it’s interesting how the phrase “in our hands” is being used in this context. In her book, Into Our Own Hands, Sandra Morgen explores how the women’s health movement “shifted power and responsibility from the medical establishment into women’s own hands as health care consumers, providers, and advocates.” Frequently, feminist health activists and drug makers were adversaries — e.g. Barbara Seaman‘s classic expose, The Doctors’ Case Against the Pill, and the demonstrations by members of DC Liberation (left) at the congressional hearings on the Pill in 1970.
In my current research project, I’m looking at how (to paraphrase Boston Women’s Health Book Collective co-founder Susan Bell) feminist health activists “came to grips” with the technoscience of contraception. At a conference on New Birth Control organized by Planned Parenthood in 1990, Judy Norsigian described “new era of cooperation between pharmaceutical firms and women’s groups.”
Emergency contraception was one example of how feminist health activists and industry came together to sponsor a new birth control technology. I wonder, though, how much this fulfills the Second Wave feminist goal of putting healthcare “into women’s hands.” What do readers think?