“She was unable to have children, and in examining the couple it was found that she had no abnormality, but that her husband was sterile. Dr. Pancoast discussed the case with his medical students, including Hard, when someone in the group suggested that they take the semen from the “best looking” of the medical students and use that semen to impregnate the woman. Dr. Pancoast agreed to the experiment, and without the consent of either the husband or wife and under the pretense of performing another examination on the anesthetized woman, they inseminated her using the semen of one of the medical students. When it was evident that the woman was pregnant, the husband was informed of what had taken place. They agreed never to tell the wife, and she went on to give birth to a son.”
Excerpt from, “The New American Family.”
The first human insemination in history was done without the woman’s consent. Why am I not surprised?
I have two thoughts on this: one on the institution that is modern medicine and the second on the institution that is marriage.
How many women have been raped by the speculums and unnecessary exams of doctors since the beginning of modern medicine? This woman was not only made unconscious with chloroform for a vaginal exam by a room full of men, but she then had the semen of one of those men put inside of her, which we could only classify as a form of rape, no? This was in the year 1884 and women are still receiving vaginal exams, treatments and even drugs that they haven’t consented to 130 years later. This really makes me mad.
A woman recently shared a similar story with me of a doctor who said to her after just giving birth to her third baby, “I’m going to inject you with Pitocin now,” to which she cried out, “No! Do I need it? Can’t I just wait?” She had healthy vitals, a history of safe and healthy births and no risk factors for postpartum hemorrhage which might require Pitocin to help the uterus contract to prevent excessive bleeding. Her two prior children were born at home with no complications, and her third birth was taking place at the hospital only because the family wanted to use their insurance and save money on the out of pocket midwife. The doctor didn’t inject her with Pitocin that day and her uterus contracted normally as she began breastfeeding her child, but she commented to me, “Why didn’t he ask me if I wanted Pitocin and explain his reasoning for offering it? He just said he was going to do it. ”
Modern medicine is in many ways a dictatorship. Medical people parade as gods rather than advisors, or teachers, as the latin root of the word illustrates (to doc(ēre) to teach). It is important for us to see medical professionals as collaborators in our health as suppose to absolutists. If we see them as teachers, advisors, supporters and guides, then we have the final say in consenting to treatment that we feel is helpful and empowering to us. Modern medicine can be a profoundly useful and helpful tool for achieving health, wellness and longevity when used correctly. And with consent!
In addition to the unequal exercise of power in medicine, we often see the same in American marriages where women are unable to reproduce because they are restricted to sex with only one man. This story from 1884 illustrates that science was fully aware that many women who were labeled infertile were in fact either incompatible reproductively with their spouses or were trying to reproduce with only their husband’s sterile sperm. Both problems were easily corrected by inseminating her with another man’s sperm, a practice that went on in hospitals (using medical student’s sperm!) up until the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s where sperm had to be frozen so the man could be tested for AIDS before it was administered to the woman. And yet despite modern medicine being aware that fertility can easily be treated by allowing the woman access to a different man’s sperm, we still hold tightly to the idea of the “holiness” of the shared and monogamous marriage bed of husband and wife.
So essentially part of the fertility epidemic in America is due to women being restricted to one sexual partner which lowers nature’s ability to do what it knows how to do: reproduce. Ponder that for a long minute.
Both medicine and marriage (and sex, actually) would be better off if women spoke out about what they desired to a listening and respectful male ear. Not a quick or easy thing to fix.
But what’s a quick and easy way to fix the infertility problem?
Let women sleep around.
But only if she’s consented to it, of course.