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Human Sexuality and Public Policy: How is the Idea of Power Important When Designing Reproductive Policies?

Updated on September 19, 2011

In one of the sessions in a very thought provoking human sexuality class, we discussed how reproductive injustice affects women in the US according to the different socio-economic classes that they belong to. In the articles, we are given specific examples of how incidences of tubal ligation is increased with Medicaid health insurance and rural residence (Bass & Warehime, 2008), and how these reproductive policies often are designed to eradicate poverty and control the use of welfare through discouraging low income women to have fewer children while encouraging white middle class women to have more children (Bullock et al.). In this hub I will describe some of the similar policies in other countries and examine some of the social consequences these policies might have.


Great Books about Human Sexuality and Public Policy

In the US, many rural areas lack access to resources such as family planning clinics. Often this demographic is typecast as the black community or the lower socio-economic classes. This is ironic as these people reproduce the fastest and they need the knowledge and resource most. Yet, they are the most deprived of help and are often unsuspecting victims of procedures like sterilization, which authorities deem as the most ‘efficient’ way to prevent birth rates from spiraling upwards.

In China, the one child policy is the government’s radical move to control the population. Han Chinese (comprising the majority of Chinese citizens) are to have only 1 child, while ethnic minorities have higher birth quotas according to their living locations, and high-ranking officials can have more children. While this has stabilized population growth, there have been thousands of female fetuses that have been illegally aborted due to the Chinese custom of favoring males over females. The social consequences are many, which include men resorting to indecent ways to find or buy a bride, parents fighting to place their children in the best schools, and children (called “little emperors”) themselves lacking the social graces as they grew up without siblings as the center of their parent’s universe.

In Singapore the government uses more subtle means to promote population growth through housing regulation, Baby bonus schemes (financial rewards for having kids), childcare leave at work and so on. The aim is to encourage parents to have more children, although the policies are shaped such that Chinese parents (the most wealthy and slowest reproducing race) will have the highest accessibility, resources and incentive to have more children, while the Malays (who have the fastest growing families and lower incomes) will be least encouraged to have children. From a sociological standpoint, all this is done to maintain the current and future political and social power of those in authority.

I guess population control through government regulation is a tricky process, where everyone cannot be pleased at the same time. Ideally, people should all be granted equal freedom to raise their families and equal access to healthcare and other economic resources to ensure that they and their dependents can have optimal well-being and ideal living conditions and opportunities. The reality is that not all citizens have the financial resource to support their own families and many rely on government subsidies that come from taxpayer’s money. This complicates issues as taxpayers, then have some power over how their hard earned money is used, and this means that the money is often cycled through areas where they will reap the most benefits, and those will lower financial power have lesser say in how the money is allocated, much less in the areas where they can benefit from it. Often, policies are structured to replicate and reproduce the power structures in society, limiting the social mobility of those from the lower social classes, preventing them from climbing up the social ladder. This is a practical way of preserving a country’s wealth; keeping it within the pockets of a few of the more wealthy. While I think this is arguably ‘selfish’ of the rich, this is inevitable fact of this economically driven world, where profits are foremost in social, economic and political transactions.


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 6 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I wasn't really aware of any of this except of course I knew government did provide birth control and doctors could take your children in a room alone and discuss sex with them before they were even teens and that made me very mad!

      I guess knowing a lot of unmarried woman had children to live on welfare would make me think they shouldn't have children either, with tax payers keeping them up and often if not always their daughters did the same so when they came up with the two year old rule or whatever it was called it helped some, unless the women wanted to stay pregnant forever which many did. Personally even being married birth control somehow always bothered me although I am not Catholic and I was very glad when health reasons took that decision out of my hands.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 6 years ago

      Great info here, and no I do not think any government should have the right to set guidelines on a family's birth right. Those efforts should be in creating a stronger nation as a whole, not just the"elite" or wealthy.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Very interesting hub. I don't think the government should have anything to say about a couple's reproductive rights. I am appalled that in the US, Planned Parenthood has been demonized as an abortion mill, when it provides breat exams, cervical pap tests, and birth control to either poor couples to young people who are sexually active and won't admit it to their parents. They have to get true information and contraception somewhere. In the US. the Republicans urge women to have large families, though it is rare to see families with more than 1 or 2 children in these times. Once the babies are born, Republicans want to cut any serivces that allow a Mother to return to work, so no child care help, no breaks on diapers, baby formula, shots, or anything. They just want to keep the women barefoot and pregnant, but don't want to help raise these "important fetuses" once they are real people. Rich politicians all have 4 kids, the requisite blond wife, and are trust fund babies themselves who never worked a day in their lives. And I'm not a betting person, but I'd bet my last dollar their Dads never spend 1 whole day with his brood, but will wax poetic about how he "raised a large family." Money doesn't raise a child.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      This is a very difficult policy to pin down. I don't think the government should have the right to regulate it, but I think that individuals who have children should be able to support them too. I'm not sure what the answer is.