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Books, Journals, New Media
January 7, 1998

Reproduction, History: Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 1998;279(1):86-87. doi:10.1001/jama.279.1.86-JBK0107-2-1

When Pierre the lascivious priest amorously propositions a beautiful young widow named Beatrice who comes to his church, she reacts pragmatically: "What if you make me pregnant?" He replies, "I have a special herb."

Pierre's and Beatrice's testimony, introducing Eve's Herbs , is especially important to the history of contraception and abortion because it comes from an unimpeachable Inquisition court transcript from Montaillou, France, dated 1320. The exuberant sexuality of the renegade priest and lover teaches us what legal adversaries thought about the same sexy subject. A man's professional requirement for successful contraception, often as significant as a woman's, forced him to initiate birth control. "Ordinary" people, not simply the powerful, regulated fertility by chemistry.