Contraception in context: adding missing histories of birth control across Wikipedia

Take a guess – what content gap in the Wikipedia articles on Lysol, the Great Depression in the United States, and the Black Panther Party is now filled, thanks to the work of Utah State University student editors? The answer might surprise you! You can now learn about the role of contraception in each subject’s histories.

These student editors may have channeled their research on birth control into unexpected areas of Wikipedia, but they weren’t the only students in Chris Babits’ History of Sexuality class who focused on adding information related to contraception to the online encyclopedia. Classmates also enhanced related pages including the Cornstock laws and Family planning in the United States. And until one Utah student jumped in, the Views on birth control in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints page was missing arguably the most relevant view: the church’s current stance on contraception. 

Just as real-world events can lead to spikes in readership of related Wikipedia articles, student editors can be motivated to work on topics that experience a peaked level of public interest, wanting to add information to the in-demand area of knowledge.

Babits’ students’ decision to explore the topic of contraception may have been influenced by the real-world interest in the information following a milestone decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court officially ruled to reverse Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, declaring that the constitutional right to abortion no longer exists. The decision undoubtedly drew attention to Wikipedia’s abortion article, which noted a significant jump in page views the following day, as well as to Wikipedia’s article on birth control, which nearly quadrupled in daily readership by June 25. 

Screenshot of chart depicting page views of the birth control article on Wikipedia June 20 - June 26, 2022
Screenshot of chart depicting page views of the Wikipedia article on birth control June 20 – June 26, 2022 (click to view)

So it should come as no surprise that Babits’ class, who’s collective edits on Wikipedia articles have been viewed nearly one million times, isn’t the only recent class in our Wikipedia Student Program to address knowledge gaps related to contraception. 

In fall 2023, three of Caroline Smith’s students at The George Washington University collaborated to create a new article on emergency contraceptives on college campuses, exploring the history, accessibility, and legislation of access at colleges and universities across the country. Their article explores the first time morning-after pills were sold in vending machines on a college campus at The Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, the spread of the concept to other institutions, and the related legislation.

This spring term, four of Smith’s students also worked together to create another new Wikipedia article to share the history of Julie, a healthcare company that markets a non-prescription emergency contraceptive pill. Julie launched their product in September 2022 in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade with a mission of removing stigmas around emergency contraception and increasing access for marginalized communities.

By filling in missing information for topics of public interest and need, student editors like Babits’ and Smiths’ can make tremendous impact through the Wikipedia assignment. Interested in learning more and getting started in your own class? Visit or reach out with questions at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.