NL 2016/07a

Pioneer of Birth Control: Karl-Heinz Mehlan´s 100th Birthday

The sexual health clinician Karl-Heinz Mehlan (1916-2003) rendered outstanding services to the GDR in means of both, the birth control and the abortion. He experimented with the coil, promoted the production of condoms and introduced the so called ‚planned child pill‘ Ovosiston, made in the GDR, in 1965. For all that the GDR still lagged behind the FRG, yet as far as abortion was concerned, the country took the lead: It was Mehlan who had been calling upon the right to have an abortion during the first months of pregnancy since 1960, a claim that finally came into effect in 1972.

Compared to the FRG, the topic of birth control in the GDR was based on a completely different worldview: While women in the FRG had to stand up to conservative circles who in those days wanted to see them as housewives and mothers in first instance, in the GDR the question of compatibility of the working career and family life was predominant. The Ovosiston pill had been presented to the GDR public during the Leipzig Fair in 1965 and retailed for free since 1972.

In 1951, Mehlan was made a professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin where he set about his research on birth control and abortion. Four years later he moved to the University of Rostock, where he established an institute for social health care. He became popular also for his lectures on sexuality where he spoke about this tabooed topic. For more than 20 years, Mehlan worked on birth control for the WHO. In his endeavours, Mehlan was mainly concerned with the prevention of unwanted pregnancies. He initiated and promoted the establishment of 200 marriage and sexual life counselling centres. A whole slew of his progressive ideas, such as condom vending machines at schools, however, had been thwarted by the former GDR minister of education Margot Honecker.


Entry on Karl-Heinz Mehlan in the Catalogus Professorum Rostochiensium, (last access on 15th June 2016)



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