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  Contraception (Latin, ‘against fertilization’) offers women the means to prevent or plan pregnancy. For most feminists the availability of contraception is central to the project of freeing women from patriarchy. It is also considered by many feminists that the right to choose if and when to have children also enables women to disassociate reproduction from sexuality, allowing women choices about expressing sexuality without being coerced into the patriarchal family structure. The availability of safe and free birth control is an ongoing struggle and a vital element of feminist activism and thought.

Where contraception is freely available to women there remains a crucial issue in the way that patriarchy theorizes and defines the female body. Feminist thinkers have argued that the patriarchal bias of medical science has meant that there is not sufficient testing of the long-term effects of birth control. They have also argued that where contraception is available, in either the family or constitutionally, responsibility for birth control is very often placed on the woman. Feminists consider that one of the reasons for this is that if women decide to break out of the sole role of motherhood they are opting out of the patriarchal family structure, and are not, in patriarchal terms, ‘entitled’ to male support. This continues even though the function of barrier methods of contraception has changed since the identification of the AIDS virus. Contraceptive methods are often criticized by feminists for not being an ideal choice but a choice between risks. In many parts of the world the fight to obtain contraception still continues. TK

Further reading Sue O\'Sullivan (ed.), Women\'s Health: The Spare Rib Reader; , Margaret Sanger, Motherhood in Bondage.



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