Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Lauren Jade Martin
Contraception refers to the numerous methods and devices used to prevent conception and pregnancy. For millennia, women and men have relied on such folk and medical methods as condoms, herbs, vaginal suppositories, douching, and magic rituals and potions—along with abortion and infanticide—as means to control the birth of children. Today contraceptives include medically prescribed hormones for women; condoms, diaphragms, and other barriers; behavioral practices, including withdrawal and the rhythm method; and irreversible male and female sterilization. Although there are a number of contraceptive options with varying levels of reliability and effectiveness, use is circumscribed by access and availability, as well as by legal and cultural restraints. Because contraception separates intercourse from procreation, it raises moral and legal issues. The Catholic Church and some other religious institutions have long morally condemned contraception as a mortal sin. However, legal prohibitions in the United States against contraception and the advertisement and sale of ...