Dr. Aviva Weissman discusses Planned Parenthood and the use of contraception
BROADCAST: Mar. 24, 1966 | DURATION: 00:40:08
Dr. Aviva Weissman discusses the emergence of family planning services in England and the importance of women having access to contraception and other services. Weissman discusses her experience with families who have benefitted from the services of Planned Parenthood.
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Studs Terkel We have a great deal of talk these days of explosions and revolutions and because we live in a fantastic age of what's been described as a triple revolution what with cybernetics, automation, weaponry that may wipe man out as well as may save man and human rights revolution. But the undercurrent always raises the question of population. All talk is academic unless something is done about the explosion itself that is unprecedented. And thanks to the Planned Parenthood Association and Searle, our guest is Dr. Aviva Weissman of England. Who is the head of the Family Planning Clinic in Slough. Slough, which is a suburb. Is it sort of a suburb of London Dr. Weissman?
Dr. Aviva Weissman It's a small town. It's a town outside London about 25 miles from London. Highly industrialized area and it was a magnificent center for starting out trials on oral contraceptives. Which we did about August of 1960.
Studs Terkel Why was this a good center to try it out, the use of pills and contraceptives?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, it had already a very flourishing family planning clinic that has now been going about 30 years. It's got a very large population, something like 80000, and it has a very young population. It's said to have the youngest population, the largest percentage under the age of 40 in England at this time. So you can see we have a large number of women who are interested in what we can do to help them. And the other very interesting thing is that because of its nature we are able to come to a very great cross-section of the population. As I said in the Trading Estate the wives of the workers in the estates, some of these wives work themselves. But going to the top. We also have professional wives. Wives of the masters at Eton College. And going right to the other end. We even have gypsies. English Gypsies who live in and around London airport who come to our clinics and can only put a cross to sign their name on their consent form.
Studs Terkel We speak of gypsies people generally think of gypsies of Spain or of Hungary. The British gypsies are known as the Tinker people.
Dr. Aviva Weissman That's right
Studs Terkel Provided many. We know this and this sounds almost patronizing to them. It's terrible. Many wonderful songs. And yet the lives of gypsies of all countries have been quite terrible, you know materially. Yet they're also part of the group of women--
Dr. Aviva Weissman Also part of that group of women who want help for the same reason as anyone else does. All women. The more one talks to women, one realizes that they all want a means of planning their family and not limiting their family. I think this is a terrible mistake that people make. But they want the means to plan the family in the way they want.
Studs Terkel Dr. Weissman, this I know is a theme that is in your mind continues in your work. The idea of a woman, a mother and her right to plan a family. Would you mind expanding on this just a bit?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, I've always been of the opinion that it should be the woman's responsibility. After all if a woman does become pregnant unwillingly she is the one who will have to bear this child and look after the child when it's born.It has rather been the idea on the past that man was a superior character and he should take all the responsibilities and a lot of men prefer to do this they don't like to feel that a woman is really stepping into this field as well and looking after contraception for herself. But as I say, this is a woman's responsibility. More and more. And now if you can offer a woman some method which she can take which is very acceptable to her and what she knows is going to be an effective method and an easy method to use. This of course has been the trouble in the past. They were neither acceptable not necessarily very easy and certainly not very effective. But if you can offer a woman this I think it does give her a great feeling of strength in herself. She becomes more [fulfilled?].
Studs Terkel We could talk about this just a bit, Dr.Weissman, we think of birth control of a woman and contraceptive today in this world as what it does in helping the family. The idea of less mouths to feed where there are difficulties materially. What it does to the woman. The woman. I know this fascinates you very much because your own observations the women whom you've seen who have had families and have been burdened and what's happened to them since they've been attending your clinic.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think the thing that I carry most in my mind is a vision of the sort of look on a woman's face when she first comes to the clinic to tell me her story to tell me she has perhaps four or five maybe even more children. She may have had some miscarriages. She looks very haggard usually. She looks certainly a good deal older than the figure she writes on her first card and she is in some way desperate. She's either desperate because she can't cope with these children. She is always weary. She's exhausted. Or in a terrible way she is desperate because she is frightened to have normal relations with her husband and I think this is a very terrible thing. And so many of the women in our area certainly have got to the stage when the husband has to sleep on the sofa downstairs because she is frightened to have him in the bed with her. And then you can talk to them and you can offer them this method of contraception particularly. Advise them on the use of the pill and it doesn't take very long it's two or three months when they come back and they're almost unrecognizable. Some of them from the first time I met them. I think the one particular instance which will always remain with me is a young girl who put down the age as 21 and I can assure you I thought she looked 40. She was rather bloated and plump. She looked very worried. Very miserable. And she came in. She'd been sent by the gynecologist because she'd recently had a miscarriage which was the second miscarriage she'd had in her life. But in addition she had five living children and we put her onto the pill at that time and she came back in a few months and she rapidly returned. Now she's been on for four years. I think she now looks 24 which is her right sort of age but very recently we met her, her husband as well. And we got the whole story about it. What he said I think is reflected in what so many other women say to me. He said you know the first child was on the way of course before they were married. And then the second child came and he said it was fun then we were only young. She was 15 and he was 16 at this time. But he said gradually it's become less and less fun. And finally we were both worried and frightened and we didn't know how to cope with this thing. And he said now it's fun again. And I think this is a very telling remark.
Studs Terkel As as you're talking Dr. Weissman, I'm thinking about two people a young woman and her husband both. I suppose the element through the years, before the pill, before contraception a little bit of guilt was in there too I suppose. Wasn't there? The responsibility. More children, another mouth to feed and I suppose guilt about sex as a result of it too.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think this is right. And the fact the other point about more mouths to feed was that the person who fed less in order to feed the other babies was usually the mother. And this again is another aspect where they this is led to a lot of illness in the mother. And we must remember constantly that if the mother doesn't keep the whole family is going to suffer. And I think this is what we've noticed as well. I think this was before Mengers gone to the problem families where we have dealt with this. Yeah. There is a very different aspect. The families I've been talking about generally speaking who come to our clinic live in homes. They have a bathroom usually available to them. But when you come to deal with the so-called problem families these are families very often living in a room in the parents house. Already several children and there is maybe the use of a wash place down the corridor and not very much more. Now it never was any use advising any of these women on the so-called conventional methods because they simply couldn't use them. This was a physical impossibility. But there's no house where you can't draw a glass of water and swallow a pill. And so it's very much into these homes that we've been invited to go and help them. And I don't do very much of this work myself but the doctor who does told me recently. She said the great thing that she's noticed is that as she goes back from time to time she notices the home is a little tidier, a little cleaner. The children don't have runny noses anymore. They've got shoes on and gradually the whole thing builds up. Not only because there isn't another child on the way to take away the food and the money but because the morale of the mother has been so build up.
Studs Terkel There is this intangible isn't there that that becomes very tangible.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, [unintelligible] about one other case very similar onto this. This came to us in the clinic referred by the health visitor where we have wonderful liaison with our local authority workers. She came in as Mrs. L.. She was not married. And the story is that she had been living with the same man for some seven years and she now had seven children and it was a very sad home. She was constantly being beaten and pushed around. And he came home drunk it was another child and so on and so on. But the health visitor persuaded her to come to us. And a year later I went to see the senior health visitor and I said "Do you realize Mrs. L has now been with us for a year and I think she looks marvelous and she's so happy. She is a different character." and she said "Well now I'll tell you the other side of the story. When she first came to you this was more than a problem family. This was a family that had to be visited by the seat superintendent health visitor only they would allow no one else into the house with police escort during the year that police escort moved further and further down the road. And now she will allow the ordinary visiting health visitor to go in and she doesn't have to have the superintendent there anymore. But in addition to this the husband if you like in name is and has not been put entirely in his place and this young woman has recovered her morale again."
Studs Terkel You know what, you mentioned the place of this young guy, her common law husband. The guy lives with her. Yet something must happen to him too or many cases the legal husband, because of the desperation. And people become abusive towards one another who are close and debase one another because of what has happened it seems that something must happen to him too. In many cases.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think they do. This other young husband I told about they said he said as well that he felt the one who'd had the five children the two miscarriages, he felt that things had come to an end. There was no hope. This was just going to go on forever and ever they were going to be nappies on that line or diapers as you call them, forever and ever.
Studs Terkel What's that phrase you use?
Dr. Aviva Weissman We call them nappies.
Studs Terkel Nappies on the line.
Dr. Aviva Weissman And this is another thing she said to me. She said "you don't know what it means to me not to have nappies on my line." And then he suddenly realized that she could pull out of this depths of misery and he as well has done the same. And they have both risen and now they're two normal young people enjoying life and being fulfilled in their family which is as it should be.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking about this clinic and titles. An interesting name of the city of Slough is now a heck of a slough.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I nearly said it. I nearly said it just then.
Studs Terkel But the Slough of here of hope really. The people who've come to see you are there obstacles too? Are there suspicions too about it? Do you encounter this?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, at the beginning very much. Oh yes. We started off in 1960 this was a trial and we just put in advertisements in the local press and out of the first two hundred sixty or so people who came something like 38 didn't carry on. And no it wasn't quite as many as that, 30. These were the people who really came to us to see what we were doing. To look around and they never appeared for a second visit. Then there was some who actually started but having swallowed one or two pills they suddenly thought no this I don't know. I don't know enough about this. And they stopped. But out of that original 260 of the 238 I think it was who actually started taking pills. A lot of them have moved out of the district because were rather owing to the nature of the town. It's rather a mobile sort of population. But out of that we still have a hundred who are still attending our clinic in the same premises we had originally. Some of them have left of course in order to have further planned babies. And I think this is a point which shouldn't be underestimated. People have often said to me the pill is a terrible thing. You're just going to cut down the number of children. You're going to make women who should be having children not have them. And I don't go along with that theory at all because I firmly believe that by allowing a woman to plan her family as and when she wants it if she has made up her mind that four is the sort of family she wants then she will have four but instead of having four within five years she'll have four over ten years. She'll be able to enjoy those children far more, they'll be better looked after. And it will on the whole be very much happier family I'm sure. So from that point of view I don't think we're going to reduce the numbers of children who should be born but we're going to reduce the numbers who shouldn't be born. The ones who really are unwanted, the ones who the pregnancies which unhappily are going to result in abortions. This has been very, very noticeable both in England and in Australia that the rate of septic abortions admitted to hospital has gone down and down and down.
Studs Terkel You mentioned Australia. That there was a recent conference in Australia wasn't there? What's the nature of this?
Dr. Aviva Weissman This was a symposium held on the steroids over there.
Studs Terkel Steroids are what?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Steroids are the synthetic hormones which are in the oral contraceptive tablets.
Studs Terkel Which are in the pill.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Which are in the pill and the pill of course is used not only as a contraceptive it's also used for various women's ailments and gynaecological use and the conference was on all these aspects. But what most surprised us and this was 18 months ago, we were in Australia. I don't know what people feel here, but in England we certainly rather tend to think of Australia as being rather far away and it's still a little primitive perhaps.
Studs Terkel Far away from here too.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Far away from here too. But nevertheless, when we got there what was so tremendously interesting was that there was already a very, very wide acceptance and use of this new method and people have often said to me how do you account for this fact that in Australia women have, well, there is only a small population. It's still a very large continent and one would have thought that they wanted to increase their population. How do you account then for the fact that women have adopted this particular method so strongly. And I think that, I thought about this a lot, and came up with the feeling that it was three factors here. One is that in general the American [sic] woman is more educated, more highly educated than the average British. Because of the nature of the women, of the families that have emigrated to Australia and have settled there from time to time. Secondly I think that the women and the men are very, very strongly aware of the economic structure of their country and the fact that it needs building up very strongly and although one says there's such a lot of country there it's not necessarily a habitable country a lot of it will never be possible. But thirdly, I think the other thing is that it's not a matriarchal society but I think the woman in Australia is a little more emancipated perhaps than the average woman in England. I'd say we found this over there.
Studs Terkel [unintelligible] in a strange way a pioneer society that is new and often it happens in a pioneer society. A woman is strangely enough freer. This is a paradox. I'm sure sociologists--
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think that's maybe very well a point.
Studs Terkel But coming back to the clinic. This is a rather new phenomenon. A family planning clinic that you had in Slough, in England. I'm sure it's so in many countries in Latin America. Have you been in other countries and Asiatic countries?
Dr. Aviva Weissman I haven't been in any Asiatic countries. I went to Hong Kong but only very briefly but not in India which I am most interested to visit but I haven't. But no, the family planning clinic in England they have been going for thirty or more years, in a small way. But recently there has been a very big move to increase the numbers and I think that about 18 months ago there were 400 clinics throughout the country under the Family Planning Association which is the equivalent of the Planned Parenthood here.
Studs Terkel Planned Parenthood.
Dr. Aviva Weissman But the last figure I had quoted to me was five hundred and thirty and they're going up very, very rapidly.
Studs Terkel Have you encountered an opposition in different [corners?]
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well we did. We do have a certain amount of opposition. I'm very happy to say that it's decreasing. There was opposition at the beginning from the local doctors on various counts. One was they didn't feel we knew enough about it. The other was sometimes on religious grounds they didn't feel this should be allowed. And if I may say so, I think sometimes it was just a feeling from the male doctors here. They didn't like women doctors being so very active in this matter but nevertheless over a few years if we go back to before nineteen sixty when we had no use of the pill our clinics were just running along absolutely on an even keel. We used to have so many new patients a year. But our total attendance was something of the nature of 4000 in a year and it went on like this year after year. In the beginning of 62 we in fact were able to introduce the pill into our regular clinics. Many women who came along could have this as an alternative method and since then the figures have gone up and up. This is I think the measure of its popularity that in this last year I just got the figures before I came away. We had over 8000 in fact we doubled our visits in these few years.
Studs Terkel The pill then is relatively new. The pill is in use about five years you say.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Not to in general use since January '62 that's all.
Studs Terkel Sixty-two.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Just four years. That's all we've had so far. Before that it was only in trial you see and it again not been in universal use in England as long as that because we in Slough were one of the original trial centers. Birmingham--
Studs Terkel Yours was a pilot in a sense. A pilot clinic.
Dr. Aviva Weissman And Birmingham was the other. And other trials started later. But when we started then to use it in our routine clinic in 62' we were already familiar with it. I think this was the big thing we had over other clinics. We'd seen it. We'd seen the way women reacted to it. This was so very important. We'd reassured ourselves very much that clinically there were no ill effects. We were very well supplied with information about the research programs which were going on constantly. So we were reassured as doctors that we were not offering anything which might have ill effects.
Studs Terkel You say doctors. Think of you Dr Aviva Weissman, lady doctor. Are your colleagues women too?
Dr. Aviva Weissman The family planning clinics on the whole, no I don't think there are any male doctors.
Studs Terkel I wasn't aware of that.
Dr. Aviva Weissman This is very different from the States I know.
Dr. Aviva Weissman We are all women
Dr. Aviva Weissman This is the only man in the place is the medical director.
Studs Terkel Because I suppose it makes it easier too for the women who come to visit you. They feel freer. Is that the idea?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well I think this is a very big thing in its favor. You know we are very strange creatures and although we'll go to our own doctors to talk about anything at all, the one thing we don't feel very free to talk about is just this one thing, contraception and anything to do with our monthly periods, if you like, and gynecology generally, unless it comes to be something really big. And so many women who come in and talk generally their first visit and then they come back with a second visit and you ask them how they're getting on and then just as they're going they say "I wonder could I just ask you a question? I can't talk to my own doctor about this. I feel a little embarrassed. Do you mind?" And I think that that is where we as women do have it a little over the others.
Studs Terkel You come across this. This is interesting. This inhibition. And this may explain also why that local doctor in a sense feels what he thinks is a threat I suppose to his--
Dr. Aviva Weissman Because he thinks--
Studs Terkel Position or stature is interesting isn't it?
Dr. Aviva Weissman That they'll bring their little problems to us and that he'll lose some of his contact.
Studs Terkel Are there fears of women too about the pill? That it might, just thinking out loud, that it might make them sterile? They ever mentioned that?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, they do mention it from time to time because it gets in the press from time to time and they read it and they want to be reassured. And the thing is that they don't so much want to be reassured themselves because I do make a very great point and all my colleagues do as well but when they come for their first visit we do talk to them at some length about how the pill works, why it works, and what we know and believe it isn't going to do in the future. In fact that is not going to affect them adversely in any way. But when anything comes up in the press or perhaps on television or on the radio what they come back is for reassurance so they can tell their mother and their aunt and their husband that no they were quite right to carry on and everything is all right.
Studs Terkel Is it difficult for them to apply? I mean is there, is it a complicated matter the ritual itself?
Dr. Aviva Weissman To come to a clinic?
Studs Terkel Yeah no I mean the matter of the pill
Dr. Aviva Weissman No. I know I have heard that in some of the clinics there is a waiting list and this is where they perhaps haven't got enough stuff. We're very lucky in this way but no, anybody can come in at any time at all and the only thing we say to them before we think I'm going to say well look what I want is the pill. The only stipulation I make is have you discussed this with your husband and is that what he wants as well? And this is not because I wouldn't say that we did in the trial have to have a consent form which the husband signed as well but no, not in the routine clinic. We don't ask for any consent but it's just that I feel with any method of contraception this is just such a mutually important facet of life that both parties should be agreeable. And also what occasionally happens is that if a young woman should come along and ask for the pill and not mention that her mother is against it or she has a sister who is against it because she's read something or been told something then this woman is going to be worried all the time she's using it and it is very important to get over that first. And this is why I always say to them "Well, have you discussed this? Have you any worries? Anything you want to know about?" And we clear it all right at the begining.
Studs Terkel When you use the word the pill that says it, doesn't it? I mean when women say the pill it means this specifically doesn't it almost?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Listen, to a woman this is what the pill means.
Studs Terkel The pill. Is the pill. Are there a variety of pills or universally or is there one? Pretty much. I'm not up on this.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, in England we have a choice of 14 at the moment and they're coming on the market all the time.
Studs Terkel Of different companies?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Of different companies or of the same companies but at different doses or perhaps they brought out a slight variation on the original but it's very difficult to discuss this really because I've just been with a group of Canadian doctors and they have a different set of pills which they use up in Canada and it is rather confusing.
Studs Terkel Is there. Is it difficult for the woman? These are elementary questions on my part. The use of the pill, does that involve complication of one sort or another? I meant the ritual of the use of pills.
Dr. Aviva Weissman People always said it would. They said you will never get a woman to remember to take a pill every night. And with the newer pills which we're using it has become so simple. The nurses in the clinic say that it takes no time at all to instruct a patient on how to take the pills. For this reason, that women normally look on the 28 days as what should be a correct cycle and if they vary from this then they consider they're not quite right and therefore the new tablets which we are using on the whole are put up in such a way you can create a 28 day cycle. They start at the very beginning, on the fifth day of the menstrual period. And take one every night for 21 days and then they break for seven days during which time they will have their next menstrual period. And after a clear seven days they start again. So they must have a 28 day cycle and they find this very easy to remember because it's so simple. They note, every time, one particular. If they have started the first packet of tablets, let us say on a Thursday, then every time they start another pack it will be Thursday again.
Studs Terkel I'm thinking of the effect again of this new phenomenon of birth control pills and what it does to the woman, to the man, I suppose to the child, to the children too. This must have. You were describing the effects on this one woman who became her age again or recovered her youth really. And I suppose it must have an effect on the husband or the guy or the child too. Would you say?
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, I think she has, a lot of them have much more patience they say. So they say now they have got patience with their children. They don't get furious with them. They don't get irritable with them. The other thing about the pill of course is a wonderful beneficial side effects, for want of a better term to use with them. But so many of the women who are on the tablets and we did a series on this and we found that it affected about 82 percent of them in improving things which they normally associated with their monthly period. You know, a lot of people say that it's a natural phenomenon that a woman should have a period. Whatever goes with it is natural. But on the other hand it seems a very strange thing that if you talk to most women they refer to this particular phenomenon as the curse.
Studs Terkel Curse, the very fact that the word curse is used is interesting.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think this is very telling and it is not the actual fact of the bleeding itself. But it's all the other things which go with it and there are so many women who suffer from something or other. Every month. They will either have pain or they will have some tension before, some sort of discomfort or they will bleed very heavily and all these things tend to be diminished on the pill.
Studs Terkel I think this uses this word you well [unintelligible] with the use of the word curse for menstrual period was really interesting. It almost has a guilt feeling. It has that woman indeed has been born to bear this particular burden, this cross, you know because she is a woman. So, seems to me that if in some way or other this can be ameliorated it would also take this other, this fantasy conception of guilt, of being a woman rather than the man you know, bearing this curse.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think this is terribly important. The nicest thing I like, I have them say to me sometimes they come back, "I don't even know I'm having my period now. It just happens. Once a month it's there." But it doesn't have any further effect on her life except that it happens. But the other terribly interesting thing of course is that it needn't happen and that we now can in fact help so many women who in spite of being on the pill and in spite of all that I said there are obviously a few who will carry on having some sort of real misery when they do have their monthly period. And for these we now put them onto continuous medication for perhaps two, three months, four months at a time. And then when they know they're not going to be busy and it isn't going to be a house, house party or they're not going to have to go away. They may stop and see what happens for seven days and then they start again.
Studs Terkel Dr Weissman. Aviva Weissmann. Our guest British doctor, lady doctor. A very attractive one indeed. How can we. You yourself the Doctor. Perhaps you can go back just a touch of your own autobiographical notes here. Obstacles of your own in becoming a doctor. Entering what has been, in the past, described as a man's field. Did you. What made you become a doctor?
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think I always wanted to be so. I know this is one of those things one says. But certainly from the age of nine I always wanted to be. So we're a very medical family on both sides. And I my parents were abroad in the colonial service and I was brought up in my grandmother's home with my two youngest aunts were both medical students and all my young days I can remember asking them questions and I think I was five then. I always wanted to do something in this line but medicine seemed to be the thing. And then I started to study as a medical student just before the war broke out and had this rather miserable experience of not having a proper hospital to be in because we were constantly evacuated somewhere either to avoid the bombs. And I think that this was a difficult time to be a student and I was engaged soon after the war began. My husband went off in the Air Force and came back and we married while I was still a student. And if I may just tell this very personal anecdote about myself, it perhaps explains why I feel so strongly that a woman must be allowed to plan her family the way she wants it. I was in my fifth year of medicine and we were going to get married because he was on leave, you know how these things are in war time. And I went to my family doctor and I said "Now look, I have another 18 months to do medicine so I don't want to start a family. What do I do about it?" And he just patted me quietly on the head and said "Don't worry about little things like that. You're very unlikely to become pregnant right away. Just go away and see what happens and then come and talk to me later." And so I went away and what happened was that I became pregnant immediately and I took my midwifery finals just two months before my first child was born. Well as that was wartime it didn't matter because we felt very differently about a lot of things then emotionally. And when you're married what you want is your husband's child. This is what you want and one never knew if perhaps this would be the only opportunity to fulfill this particular longing. But looking at it now, this is something I would never say to any young person, because first of all I was already 22 then. I wasn't quite so young. But so many of these young people come to us now they're only 17, 18. Their fiances are perhaps a year older. They still have a lot of training to go through. Perhaps maybe at university or maybe just doing some other training which they want to complete. And they want to finish this before they start a family. And they need to finish this before they start a family. Otherwise he won't be able to support the family in the way he wants to. He'll be frustrated all his life. I've seen so many cases of this happening. Where the advice hasn't been given to the young couple soon enough. They have to save maybe to have a house and so on but if they can just have this year, maybe two years, breathing space to get themselves set up. Then this is the important thing. As I see it.
Studs Terkel It's interesting. From your own experience. From your own experience you have a certain outlook concerning others, other women. Your [varying?] experiences.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, this is something I keep telling myself that I'm very lucky to have a lot of experiences such as traveling now and meeting a lot of people because this is a subject about which one can learn all the time and from what you learn both from other people, from your patients and from yourself. You are able to help the next person just that little bit more.
Studs Turkel The question of you Dr. Weissman, as a doctor, perhaps just a few more. Did you encounter obstacles, difficulties, prejudices in different countries? I know, we know, in the Soviet Union most of the doctors are women. We know that here there are a number of women doctors, minority of course. Every now and then we come across some that. She encountered a little obstacle because of her sex. You know.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well, as I said, as I was saying to you before this. This little bit from the male doctors and I noticed that when we have meetings with them from time to time. They a little bit say "Well, you know, all right, I suppose you must do it then."
Studs Terkel that patronizing.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Oh yes, very patronizing. Not all of them. I wouldn't say this of all of them. Some of the younger ones. It's the younger ones we get it from. That they rather resent it. And I think that a lot of people have said this. This happened when I went up to, to South Africa. There had been a very big blast off by some senior medical men about the iniquity of allowing women to take up valuable places in medical school because of then what did they do? Nothing you see. And about two days later I arrived out there.
Studs Terkel So this is interesting. It happened in South Africa. You say? Was it in Johannesburg? Cape Town?
Dr. Aviva Weissman No this was actually Cape Town. Y e s.
Studs Terkel In Cape Town. Well, it's interesting that in South Africa there was a blast off on this particular theme. South Africa has apartheid and somewhere there's a connection. I think. I feel there's a connection here when you have this. When you have a anti woman feeling in a certain field must be somehow it's connected. I'm sure it's not unrelated to a racist feeling in another way too. There has to be this connection. To me at least. it
Dr. Aviva Weissman
Studs Terkel That m a ybe r ight. it seems to be rather interesting. I think.
Dr. Aviva Weissman it certainly happened there and then they were a little taken aback when I said "Look, here am I". But the thing is that we as women, we do have other duties to fulfill. I mean the men can't produce the children. We've got to do this and this is something I did. I had four children and then unhappily I lost my youngest. Later I had two others. But this is something you have to take time off to do. You can't be working all the time. Although, a lot of us do go through to quite near the time of the birth and then go back fairly soon afterwards. But at a certain time, my father said this to me, he said "you know you will find that one day you'll go back. And whatever you do, don't give up your career". Because, as I told you, I was doing my training during the war and then when Michael came back from abroad and we were married it would have been very easy to have dropped it all then and a lot of the girls did. For sure they did. But he said "Look only do this one thing for me. Carry on get qualified and see what happens." And I did this thing and for nine years I didn't do any medicine at all after that because I was bringing up my, my family.
Studs Terkel You, you were out of medicine for nine years?
Dr. Aviva Weissman I [unintelligible] for nine years and then suddenly this tragedy occurred and this was the most marvelous thing for me to have had this to go back to. But I would, I would have gone back anyway. I'm sure. I would have gone back anyway because this is what I always wanted to do. Go out and do something for somebody.
Studs Terkel Because as you're talking Dr Weissman, you're talking about a clinic, yourself, contraception, birth control in England and I'm sure this is that the problem is many, many times this in other countries where the population problems are more. In India, for example. Latin American countries and the other Asiatic countries, I suppose.
Dr. Aviva Weissman The problem is tremendous there.
Studs Terkel There too, the pill has made its way.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Well not not so much. It's going to. But at the moment it hasn't unfortunately. It hasn't got started. They're curiously conservative country India. They want everybody else to try everything first to make sure it'll be absolutely all right before they do. And so they have, as you know, up to the present gone ahead more with the intrauterine than they have with a pill but a lot of us feel at the point about this is that you're not going to win on this front with any one method. This is far too big a problem to be dealt with by just one possible method of contraception. You certainly need the pill and you need the intrauterine and you need anything else that anybody can think of. Otherwise the tragedy of a population explosion is going to be too terrible and too soon.
Studs Terkel What other thoughts do you have Dr Weissman? For I know you have another engagement. What other thoughts on this that we haven't talked about on the matter of the pill, the woman, the husband the effect, birth control, the explosion, experiences, perhaps observations, your own thoughts.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think my overriding thought at the moment and this is something I'm hoping to learn something about, a little more about when I'm over here is how do we get the message through to the younger generation sooner than our generation had it. And I'm sure the answer for this is in education. We're very, very sadly lacking in this in England. It's done in a rather haphazard way. Sex education and human anatomy and so on. Human physiology in school is done purely at the whim, let us say, of a particular Headmaster, Headmistress of the school and I think this is my most, my biggest feeling at the moment. I would like to see something done much more to educate our young people not only about themselves, about their emotions, about their, as I say, about their sex physiology generally and to teach them that the good that can come out of thinking ahead, planning a family and doing all this as part of a much larger program which is the world
Studs Terkel Yes
Dr. Aviva Weissman planning of the world's family.
Studs Terkel So it seems it comes down to that, or up to it, doesn't it? The fact that the individual, the woman, the girl and the family seems to reflect the whole world problem. What happens in the home is obviously happening a million fold.
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think that this is something where when 10 million people have been trying to hit the thing from the top but I'm sure you've got to deal with each individual first.
Studs Terkel It seems Dr Weissman, before we say goodbye now, that your your own observations and experiences, what happened. You spoke of that young woman earlier who suddenly found her age, 24 and not 44 because of this. What it did to her. At the same time she's multiplied, you know, 500 million multiplied a billion we have ourselves a different world. Don't we?
Dr. Aviva Weissman I think we do. May I just tell you this one last little episode? That somebody came to the clinic, and this was a journalist, and she asked me might she kindly interview some of my ladies. And I said with pleasure. So she just took a random, the whole afternoon, the women who came in during one particular afternoon. And she came at the end of this she said that was a terribly interesting afternoon but there's only one overriding fact that came out from every single one of those women and that was one of gratitude for the pill.
Studs Terkel Gratitude perhaps for finding their womanhood too perhaps.
Dr. Aviva Weissman Perhaps this was it. That's what they said. We're so grateful we thought of coming in the first place.
Studs Terkel Dr. Aviva Weissman thank you very much. The head of the Family Planning Clinic in Slough, England was here traveling at the moment through America the auspices of the Planned Parenthood Association. Searle. Thank you very much indeed.