The Dalkon Shield Case, Sexuality, and Women's Autonomy
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 A feminist asks: Why did women use the now discredited Dalkon Shield, and is the Dalkon Shield case unique? Grant (Sociology/Ball State Univ.), whose anger is evident but controlled, ``studied the problem from the top down, from the ground up, and from the inside out.'' To answer her first question, she looked at the personal lives of 17 women (12 of them Shield users), conducting lengthy interviews with them about their experiences with intrauterine devices and other forms of birth control. Grant found that, for them, a central issue was the conflict between protecting and controlling their procreative powers: Concerns about harmful side effects of oral contraceptives and the ineffectiveness of traditional methods apparently have led many women to accept IUDs. To answer her second question, Grant examined the development of contraceptives in general and of IUDs in particular. She studied ``expert'' opinion as expressed in popular magazines, family-planning literature, medical journals, and reports by Congress and the FDA. Here, she reports briefly on the actions of the A.H. Robins Corporation, which manufactured the Shield, but looks beyond the specifics to general economic interests, the social and political context, and especially, the nation's health-care system. Grant concludes that the Dalkon Shield case was no anomaly; the forces that produced it, she says, are alive and well and ``endanger all consumers in a capitalist economy.'' But her main concern here is the welfare of women--for whom, she notes, heterosexual intercourse is a risky activity, pitting possible pregnancy against possible harm from contraceptives. Grant concludes with some suggestions for reducing those risks. Impressively researched: a worthy addition to the study of women's need for increased control of their own lives.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8142-0572-0
Page count: 236pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992