The Transnational Network of Population-Control Intrauterine Devices, 1952-1964

Since the global historian Matthew Connelly published his compelling book Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population in 2008, the transnational nature of postwar world population control campaign recaptures historians’ and social scientists’ attention. While Connelly addresses how a transnational network advocated the policy-making and implementations of family planning programs in various developing countries, he devotes little interests in another transnational network of contraceptive technologies that made the family planning projects feasible. This paper investigates the emergence of re-designed intrauterine devices (IUDs) in the early 1960s as an outcome of this transnational network. The Population Council at New York played an important role in forming the network by recruiting actors from the United States and the developing world—non-governmental organizations, reproductive scientists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and family planning officials—through funding and technical assistance. The actors contributed to the different stages of developing population-control IUDs—innovation, expanding, and stabilization. This paper examines how the postwar global setting and population control movements shaped the actors’ motivations and their constructions of target IUD users. It also explores the main channels used to reinforce the network: funding, consultation, medical journal papers, and international conferences. The gender scripts of IUD users constructed by the American population scientists and reproductive researchers was dominant and had been adopted by their counterparts in the developing world. It was until the rise of women health movements in the 1970s that the network as well as the ideologies the network cultivated had been challenged.