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September 26, 1980

The sociopolitics of contraception

JAMA. 1980;244(13):1415-1419. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310130007004

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One of the earliest clinical trials of a contraceptive vaccine took place in India. Such research is disturbing to activists who charge that Third World people are "guinea pigs" for contraceptive experiments that would not be performed on white Americans.

That contraceptives are frequently tested in developing countries cannot be denied. Contraceptive research is generally associated with the stated political goal of improving economic conditions over the long term in heavily populated nations and freeing the women of those nations to do more with their lives than bear children from puberty through menopause (Int Fam Plann Perspect 6:47, 1980). Many contraceptive researchers are themselves citizens of developing countries. Those who are not export their technologies only at the behest of foreign governments and implement those technologies in close cooperation with family planning specialists who are natives of the countries.

Such arrangements do not satisfy the critics, who say that no matter