I love how the producers and writers of Call the Midwife are fearless in tackling taboo subjects. The characters and story lines put a human face on difficult and devices issues of the 1950s. These are issues so difficult that we still wrestle with them today, more than 50 years later.
Women having been trying to control their fertility since recorded history. There are descriptions of how to make diaphragms out of seaweed and honey from ancient Egypt. We have come a long way in contraceptive options for women in the last 60 years. Access to safe reliable contraception has revolutionized the industrialized world. But these advances are unequal in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that as of 2012, 222 million women around the world want to delay or stop childbearing but have no options available to them. Financial constraints and culture norms contribute significantly to these road blocks to birth control. Even in the United States today, insurance coverage for contraception stirs significant debate, despite overwhelming evidence that women, families and communities benefit economically when women control their fertility. It may seem that advocating for access to birth control might kill any job security for me as a nurse midwife. I love delivering babies, it brings me immense joy. But I am also joyful when I help a women find a birth control method that works for her and her family.
The character Nora, a mother with eight children already, tries desperately to terminate her ninth pregnancy. She and her husband cannot feed the eight children they already have. She asks the midwife for help in obtaining contraception, but even condoms cost money. A tubal ligation was essentially impossible to get in the 1950s. Nora resorts to an illegal abortion which almost cost her life.
The human race has conquered the moon and created the birth control pill and other safe and effective birth control methods. Maybe by the time my daughters are my age, we will have gone beyond our solar system and made contraception available to all who want it. Maybe we will decrease the need for abortions with access to birth control. Maybe the taboo will cease to be an issue that divides communities. For my daughters and my son I hope so.