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SAGE Publications

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Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism

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doi: 10.1177/1464884914558912


In 1873, the Comstock Act labeled contraceptive information and materials obscene and banned their distribution. The issue divided the United States then, and it divides the nation today. This essay examines 2000–2013 press coverage of contraception in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, two newspapers that have covered contraception since 1873. Press coverage reveals that contemporary efforts to regulate women’s bodies are cloaked in discussions about the Affordable Care Act, religious freedom, morality, and employer rights. Accepting the ideology that contraception is no longer a reproductive rights issue allowed the press to exclude women from the debate. In doing so, the power of political, social, and religious groups to control the contraception narrative and women’s lives is confirmed. The lived experience of women has evolved from 1873 when press coverage at least gave women a platform to speak about contraception. By 2013, this power appears to be lost.


Accepted version. Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism (November 2014). DOI. © SAGE Publications. Used with permission.

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