Morality Encoded: The Effects of United States Public Policy On Contraceptive Access

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DiPonio, Valerie
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In completing this project, my chief goal was to answer the following question: How can we characterize the relationship between U.S. public policy and contraceptive access, and how does this relationship help us to understand the status of women and their citizenship in the U.S.? As I have mentioned, U.S. public policy often has the effect of limiting contraceptive access. In essence, laws and policies that complicate and/or prevent women's access to birth control are more than concrete examples of what society regards as women's "proper" sexual and reproductive behavior. By thwarting women's ability to separate sex from pregnancy, these laws and policies serve as a check on female sexuality and a limit to reproductive control. In doing so, they effectively reinforce a patriarchal order that calls for a relegation of women to the private sphere, primarily through the control of women s fertility. Hence: Legislation that creates barriers to contraceptive access is a concrete example of the state enforcing male supremacy and female· subordination. Answering my research question required that I identify the barriers to birth control created by the U.S. government, along with any barriers it has helped to obstruct. Of course, to comprehensively understand any political issue - and birth control is a political issue- is to understand and explain the underlying causal factors. It is to investigate the issue at the root and ask: how did things get to be this way? In order to adequately confront the issue of the effects of U.S. public policy on contraceptive access, it therefore seemed necessary to also confront the previously mentioned terror surrounding birth control -the fear that led to the creation of law that often limits women's ability to obtain contraceptives and therefore their ability to make decisions regarding reproduction. What is this terror, and how and why did it arise? What makes it so powerful that we continue to see its effects in today's society and politics?
91 p.
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