Abortion, AIDS, and Koop!

In Peter Lewis Allen’s “The Wages Of Sin”, he explains the history of AIDS in the United States of America. As part of his introduction, the sexual revolution as a major player to the awareness of AIDS in America. The sexual revolution eliminated most of the previous taboos associated with casual (outside of wedlock) sex, and replaced them with the notion that sex is just downright awesome. Needless to say, sex became an integral part of American culture, and was even evident in Hollywood films.

Allen mentions “Old scourges like syphilis and gonorrhea were now seen as minor nuisances that could be cured with a couple of shots……prophylactics, contraceptives, and abortion were increasingly socially accepted and easy to obtain.” (Allen 113) This quote made me question whether abortion was more socially acceptable during the sexual revolution versus the present. As we all know, abortion is currently a controversial issue in modern society, with different views regarding the morality of the procedure. From series of anti-abortion billboards/ads to abortion clinic riots throughout the country, I’m left with the thinking that it is overly optimistic to say that abortion is socially accepted in modern times. When looking through the 1971-72 Emory wheels, I found numerous abortion clinic ads. The Wickersham Women’s Medical Center in New York not only posted the prices depending on how long one is pregnant, but also advertised their free psychiatric counseling, family planning, and birth control. Another abortion clinic had an advertisement in large bold font “ABORTION $140. ABORTION”, and also briefly mentioned they had a no referral fee, and served up to 12 weeks. The third ad I found was a local non-profit organization that said “We will help any woman regardless of race, religion, age, or financial status. We do not moralize, but merely help women obtain qualified Doctors for abortions, if this is what they desire. Please do not delay, an early abortion is more simple and less costly, and can be performed on an out patient basis.” I was in utter shock when I found these ads countless times in the 1971 Emory wheels. Prior to seeing these ads, I was under the impression that abortion wasn’t prevalent in society until the 80’s; I guess I was wrong!

Allen explains how C. Everett Koop was the surgeon general that gave America its first talk about AIDS. Koop wanted to address all people, just as the British government had done, to inform every single American household about AIDS. However, this was difficult to achieve, because the disease was viewed as immoral and vulgar. All Koop wanted was to inform that just because one isn’t a young gay men, or drug user, doesn’t mean they are safe from AIDS. Eventually, he finally got the funds for the AIDS brochure, and sent it out over 107 million American households. The White House then wanted to update the brochure by deleting any reference to risky sexual practices and condoms. The GMHC brochures had a similar problem with Reagan administration; they released brochures that taught how to engage in safe sex, how to kiss, and how to perform various sexual acts without exchanging infectious fluids. All of this policy against comprehensive sexual education to me sounds ridiculous. In my opinion, people need to be aware of what is really happening. Do the 1971-72 abortion ads I mentioned earlier promote abortion? Does teaching about safe sex, aimed prevent exchange of infectious fluids, promote sexual activity? Does teaching homeless individuals to use sterilized needles encourage them to do more drugs? I will leave those questions up to anyone who is willing to answer. pLuTo

Allen, Peter Lewis. The Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present. Chapter 6: “Aids in the USA” 119 -133. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000.





2 thoughts on “Abortion, AIDS, and Koop!

  1. I think that abortion advertisements, and safe sex pamphlets don’t necessarily promote abortion nor sex. I think these marketing strategies do just that. Market. Yes, there is a complex system that entails marketing and the variables that promote it however, when we begin to wonder whether abortions advertisements and safe sex pamphlets promote either practice, I think that we should then consider WHO these advertisements are geared towards. The abortion advertisements that were found in the Emory Wheel are not surprising. They are specifically marketed towards young college females who, at this time, were experiencing new sexual experiences and independence. The last thing that these inspiring females needed to hinder their college career is a baby, thus, the abortion ads serve to be Plan B in case they become pregnant. The responsibility of having safe sex and using birth control is the first step to an unwanted pregnancy so if these females fail in this aspect, this is ultimately their own mistake. You cannot say that abortion clinics “promote” sexual activity because the don’t. They only serve as a way out of an unwanted pregnancy in the event that preventive measures such as condoms, and birth control fail.

  2. upluto: remember when you make reference to something you found in the archives (like the “advertisements” for abortion services) you must include the images in your post. Please also make sure that you caption those images with the publication they come from and the date and year they are from as well.

    Great job connecting what you found in the archives about abortion to what we read about Koop. I think the questions you ask may never be answered, but I am glad you are asking them.

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