NL 2005/03

Approval of the pill in Japan, attempted abortions using ergot in ‚A doctor for everybody’ by E. Hofmann (1925), Hulka Clip for female sterilisation

Dear friends of the Museum of Contraception and Abortion,

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is concerned about a dramatic decrease of the population, reportedly because of too little sex. Japan has already one of the lowest birth rates worldwide.

Using the public’s fear of an impending extinction of the Japanese race, the authorities blocked for decades approval of the pill as a contraception method. Only after 35 years of discussions, considerations, postponements and even more tests, ten low-dose pill brands could finally be marketed in 1999. Even in present day Japan the pill is not much in use – no wonder with to so many killing headlines on unwanted side-effects regarding the heart and circulation system, decrease in sexual morality, widespread sexually transmitted diseases, increased risk of cancer, environmental damage caused by the hormone-loaded urine of consumers and potential impairment of offspring.

Sturdy financial reasons may underlie these considerations and apprehensions. In 1999, abortions in Japan officially reached $ 400 million and remain an important source of income for practising doctors. Further, financial benefits are connected with condom use, with family planning organizations and medical associations profiting from their sales.

A small detail should be added: Viagra was approved in just 6 months. No local tests required.


“Following attempted abortions using ergot, a great number of deaths were observed. For an effective abortion, you cannot avoid a more or less severe intoxication.” These lines were written in 1925 by Dr. E. Hofmann, a general practitioner, in his book “A doctor for everybody” (“Ein Arzt für Alle”).

He continues: “The efficient dose of ergot is approximately 10 – 20 grams. However, keep in mind that this dose is not without risk for the mother. Every substance used for abortion is a more or less potent toxin. The effect of ergotamin is best during the time of the expected menstruation.”

Hofmann’s book is one of his time’s very rare health books dealing with abortion. (His collegues focused their attention more or less – usually less! – on contraception.)

It was in fact Hofmann who thought about the questions “… why shouldn’t a mother do what she wants with her own body? Furthermore, is it not better from an ethical as well as a practical point of view to delete a child during the first or second month of pregnancy instead of giving birth to a baby destined to grow up in utmost poverty, neglected and lacking any care because of its parents’ financial disaster?”

Regrettably, we have not yet found any further data about this sage Viennese doctor.


The so-called “Hulka clip”, developed for female sterilisation, is virtually a marvel of mechanics and material science. In a laparoscopic intervention, the clip is inserted and released. Thanks to an intelligent lock system, a metal brace slowly presses the clips’ arms together; after approximately 2 weeks it has completely disconnected the tube. The snail’s pace of this compression prevents bleeding (into the abdomen).

Professor Jaroslav Hulka developed his clip in 1971 at the University of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In the course of extensive field trials on 1000 women in every corner of the world, he searched for any potential source of failure as to efficacy and safety of application. His invention is still in use as one of two common methods of sterilisation – the other one being the Filshie clip. So far, approximately two million women are wearing his clip.

Jaroslav Hulka (born 1930 in New York) personally travelled to Vienna to learn about our progress and transfer his scientific treasures to the Museum of Contraception and Abortion. The Hulka collection contains all his developments of devices, apparatus, instruments, teaching tools, prototypes, intermediate steps and samples of material as well as his publications covering various areas of gynecology. His collection is the second one to be consigned to us. Previously we obtained Prof. Robert Snowden’s (University of Exeter, GB) vast collection of IUDs.


With a number of interesting new objects having already been donated, we are still happy to get more objects for the planned Museum of Contraception and Abortion, such as films, posters, leaflets, books, documents, statistics, devices and instruments used for contraception, for pregnancy-testing and for abortion - from past and present times, from locally and elsewhere.

You can also support us by sponsoring the purchase of objects that we could otherwise not finance.