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Family Planning

Origin And Evolution Of Family Planning

The idea of modern population control is attributed to Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), who in 1798 articulated his doctrine attributing virtually all major social and environmental problems to population expansion associated with the industrial revolution. However, as a clergyman turned economist, Malthus was opposed to artificial methods of fertility control. He advocated abstinence and letting nature take its toll and allowing the poor to die.

In contrast, birth control emerged as a radical social movement led by socialists and feminists in the early twentieth century in the United States. The anarchist Emma Goldman (1869–1940) promoted birth control not only as a woman's right and worker's right, but also as a means to sexual freedom outside of conventional marriage. But soon birth control became increasingly medicalized and associated with science and corporate control as well as with the control of reproduction within marriage and conventional family life. As the radicals Poster advocating small families, Singapore, 1972. Due to a demographic imbalance, by the mid-twentieth century countries in the southern hemisphere had a much denser population than those in the north, leading to a focus of family planning efforts in those areas. © UPI/CORBIS-BETTMANN lost their leadership of the birth control movement to professional experts, mostly male doctors, by the 1920s birth control, which refers to voluntary and individual choice in control of reproduction, became aligned with population control, that is, a political movement by dominant groups to control the reproduction of socially subordinate groups.

During the influx of new immigrants in the 1920s and 1930s and during the depression, when the ranks of the unemployed were swelling, eugenicist (hereditary improvement) ideology and programs for immigration control and social engineering gained much ground in the United States. Even the birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879–1966) and suffragists such as Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910) and Ida Husted Harper (1851–1931) surrendered to ruling-class interests and eugenics, calling for birth control among the poor, blacks, and immigrants as a means of counteracting the declining birth rates of native-born whites. Influenced by eugenicist thinking, twenty-six states in the United States passed compulsory sterilization laws, and thousands of persons—mostly poor and black—deemed "unfit" were prevented from reproducing. By the 1940s, eugenicist and birth-control interests in the United States were so thoroughly intertwined that they became virtually indistinguishable. In the post–World War II era, compulsory sterilization became widespread in the so-called Third World where the birth rates have been higher than in the industrialized countries (in 1995, fertility per woman was 1.9 in the more developed regions and 3.6 in the less developed regions).

In the late twentieth century, the fear of demographic imbalance again seemed to be producing differential family-planning policies for the global north and the south. This was evident in corporate-scientific development of stronger contraceptives largely for poor women of color in the south and new reproductive technologies for fertility enhancement largely for white upper-class women in the north. Some insurance companies in the United States continue to refuse to cover conception in the early twenty-first century. Countries concerned with population "implosion" in the north such as Sweden, France, and Japan are pursuing pronatalist policies encouraging women to have more children while at the same time pursuing antinatalist policies encouraging women in the south to have fewer children.

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