I just lost — nay, invested — an hour of my Friday morning pawing through the 50 beautiful and informative designs of artist Heather Ault’s 4000 Years for Choice project. I am enamored. These lovely pieces each describe a fascinating and important benchmark in the history of women’s birth control options.
Did you know Egyptians had a recipe for a contraceptive in 3000 BCE? I mean, it was made of fermented dough and crocodile poo, but still! Or that Plato and Aristotle were totally into family planning? I sort of have a crush on them right now.
What makes this project particularly timely is its alignment with the Hobby Lobby case being argued in the Supreme Court. Ault’s work makes so clear just how the long the search for accessible contraception has been going on: millennia. As my husband so aptly put it the other day, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2014. If the pill had been available 200 years ago, people would have been all over getting their hands on it.”
Yes. Apparently they would have. That’s why they were trying so hard with aloe and lemons and sitting on steaming pots of onions. Most notable, is that key to Hobby Lobby’s case is that they believe that contraception is a form of abortion, and thus, they should not have to pay for insurance that will provide it free to their employees. Hey Hobby Lobby, want to know how outdated that belief is? Ahem, from one of Ault’s designs:
“Soranus, the most well-known gynecologist during the Roman Empire, wrote, A contraceptive differs from an abortive, for the first does not let conception take place while the latter destroys what has been conceived. Let us therefore call the one abortive and the other contraceptive.”
The Roman Empire, Hobby Lobby. The Roman Empire. This is the argument you are making: one from before the Romans. Good job.
One of the more exciting facets of this project is that it is being exhibited at the University of Michigan right now. Who is going with me? I’ve read all 50 designs, but I plan to gaze at all of them again.
Enjoy the few I’ve included here, click through to the project page to view them all. Give yourself at least an hour.