(Male) Medical Intervention

Historically most reproductive matters—including decisions about whether to terminate a pregnancy—have been left to the domain of women. It is only relatively recently that men have sought to intervene into what had previously been an almost exclusively female sphere. A major challenge to women’s reproductive autonomy came in the eighteenth century with the advent of male midwifery, a development that, in turn, led to the emergence of the fields of obstetrics and gynecology. Guided by the conviction that their approach to women’s reproduction was informed by the latest science, these trained male midwives and physicians also sought to establish the necessity of their professional specializations and to gain financial control over the reproductive field by cutting out their female competitors. In doing so, they inevitably faced and had to make decisions about how to respond to the practice of abortion.