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Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch - The History of Contraception

Join us for a visit to a museum that should be compulsory in the programme of all adolescents in Vienna. Actually, this is a museum for all of us as these things are prohibited or at least unspeakable in many countries and a hush-hush even in most societies today. The Museum of Contraception and Abortion will show you the history of contraception, pregnancy tests, termination of pregnancy, infanticide and illegal abortion.

Founded in 2003 by gynaecologist and abortion provider Dr. Christian Fiala, the museum has met with praise and controversy in Austria with one of the most intolerant attitudes towards contraception and consequently one of the highest abortion rates in Europe. Fiala opened the museum in order to educate visitors about the necessity and reality of how to avoid pregnancy through the artefacts and history of the precaution.

The two rooms provide a look at the history of contraception from ancient Egypt to methods that will be used in the future, by both men and women. You will learn about pregnancy tests, from indirect indicators such as a rooster’s crow to modern test strips; and also the history of abortion from the laws issued by Empress Maria Theresa all the way to current statutes.

A hundred years ago Sigmund Freud remarked that it would be the greatest liberation for mankind if it succeeded in separating the sexual drive from reproduction. Surprisingly, when a woman can actually conceive was only understood in 1930 when Professor Hermann Knaus of Graz and simultaneously Professor Kyusaku Ogino of Japan established the cycle of a woman's days of fertility around ovulation. Their findings led to the development of modern contraceptive methods as well as artificial insemination. Before, an unbelievable number and variety of ineffective and sometimes painful contraception had been tried out.  An overview of these approaches reveals both the despair and the imagination behind attempts to control fertility.

You will first pass through the contraceptive wing and see historical forms of birth control ranging from the harmful to the seemingly insane. The abortion section explores the ways women have tried or been instructed to do in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

If you wish to have more information, pick up the flyers, leaflets, and postcards at the reception, mostly in German, though. Blush pink clipboards positioned on the desk are ready for contact details for a newsletter subscription and future contact, should you wish to keep informed.

If you are lucky, you might be able to have a chat with one of the staff members and hear some insights into Austria’s abortion and contraception history, as well as some of the propaganda the museum’s protestors stuff into visitors’ hands. You might also wish to be prepared for some anti-abortion demonstrators or action around - not totally unheard of there.

There is no gift shop in the museum (what would the gift be, really?) but you will leave the museum through the shared hallway where abortions are taking place in real-time in a clinic. Guests quite literally stare the reality of abortion and contraception in the face upon exit.

Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch

Mariahilfer Gürtel 37, First Floor, 1150 Vienna


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