Family Planning Advice in State-Socialist Poland, 1950s–1980s: Local and Transnational Exchanges

This paper scrutinises the relations between different models of family planning advice and their evolution in Poland between the mid-1950s and the late 1980s, focusing on their similarities and dissimilarities, conflicts and concordances. From 1956 onwards, the delivery of family planning advice became a priority for both the Polish Catholic Church and the party-state, especially its health authorities, which supported the foundation of the Society of Conscious Motherhood and aspired to mainstream birth control advice through the network of public well-woman clinics. As a consequence, two systems of family planning counselling emerged: the professional, secular family planning movement and Catholic premarital and marital counselling. We argue that reciprocal influence and emulation existed between state-sponsored and Catholic family planning in state-socialist Poland, and that both models used transnational organisations and debates relating to contraception for their construction and legitimisation. By evaluating the extent to which the strategies and practices for the delivery of birth control advice utilised by transnational birth control movements were employed in a ‘second world’ context such as Poland, we reveal unexpected supranational links that complicate and problematise historiographical and popular understandings of the Iron Curtain and Cold War Europe.
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