Heidi Hein-Kircher


Family Planning in East Central Europe Until the Late 1950s

Birth control and planned parenthood were politicized during the 19th century together with the rise of modern ideologies. The normative understanding of planned parenthood as an individual right stands at the intersection between the interests of individuals, states and their societies, scientific knowledge, and legal provisions, but also the interests of other decision makers and interest groups, (e.g., churches). The practices of (preventing) human reproduction are not only individual decisions but have also become an object of state interventions. The quantity and quality of the national body was an argument for the formation of nation states as it was for population politics. Practices and strategies of (preventing) human reproduction hence developed into important fields of politics and were used to improve a nation’s strength; they also challenged the national societies in multi-ethnic Eastern European conflict regions, particularly nationalizing attitudes and practices aimed at national minorities, whose population growth ought to have been stunted. Vice versa, they influenced the co-existence of diverse nationalities, too. However, although reproduction was understood as a national affair targeting the respective nation, the practices and advancing knowledge had been increased and circulated through transnational and, even, global networks of experts and activists since the rise of feminist movements in the 19th century under the influence of liberal and socialist political thought. Thus, we can find controversial attitudes and politics vis-à-vis one’s own and other nations, (e.g., Jews or Roma and even larger ethnic “minorities”). Hence, the presentation intends to discuss birth control and planned parenthood as a multi-layered issue dependent on private decisions (influenced by world views, religious beliefs, physical conditions, etc.), regional and/or national needs, the growth of a global consciousness in practicing contraceptive methods, as well as how we can conceptualize planned parenthood as a societal value until the late 1950s.


PD Dr. Heidi Hein-Kircher earned her M.A. and PhD from Heinrich Heine-University in Düsseldorf. Working on the research staff of the Herder-Institute for Historical Research in East Central Europe – Member of the Leibniz-Association in Marburg, Germany since 2003, she has became the head of the department “Academic Forum” in 2009. In her research, she focuses on urban history (emerging cities) of the 19th and 20th in East Central Europe in regard to modernization, knowledge transfer, and nationalization as well as historical critical security and conflict studies. Specialized on East Central European History in the 19th and 20th century, she works with a focus on gender and family planning too.