Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America

Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America

Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America

Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America

Synopsis

After World War II, U.S. policy experts--convinced that unchecked population growth threatened global disaster--successfully lobbied bipartisan policy-makers in Washington to initiate federally-funded family planning. In Intended Consequences, Donald T. Critchlow deftly chronicles how the government's involvement in contraception and abortion evolved into one of the most bitter, partisan controversies in American political history. The growth of the feminist movement in the late 1960s fundamentally altered the debate over the federal family planning movement, shifting its focus from population control directed by established interests in the philanthropic community to highly polarized pro-abortion and anti-abortion groups mobilized at the grass-roots level. And when the Supreme Court granted women the Constitutional right to legal abortion in 1973, what began as a bi-partisan, quiet revolution during the administrations of Kennedy and Johnson exploded into a contentious argument over sexuality, welfare, the role of women, and the breakdown of traditional family values. Intended Consequences encompasses over four decades of political history, examining everything from the aftermath of the Republican "moral revolution" during the Reagan and Bush years to the current culture wars concerning unwed motherhood, homosexuality, and the further protection of women's abortion rights. Critchlow's carefully balanced appraisal of federal birth control and abortion policy reveals that despite the controversy, the family planning movement has indeed accomplished much in the way of its intended goal--the reduction of population growth in many parts of the world. Written with authority, fresh insight, and impeccable research, Intended Consequences skillfully unfolds the history of how the federal government found its way into the private bedrooms of the American family.

Excerpt

In the years between 1965 and 1974, the federal government's role in family planning policy underwent a dramatic shift from nonintervention to active involvement. This change occurred with the support of both political parties, Republican and Democratic, under the administrations of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Initially federal family planning meant artificial contraception and sterilization, but after 1973 it included abortion. Although the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (1973) led to the emergence of an antiabortion movement and fierce political debate, federal involvement in family planning remained established policy, even though Congress placed restrictions on funding for abortion services. By 1997 federal and state funding for family planning, including contraception, sterilization, and therapeutic abortion, reached over $700 million annually. This book explores the transformation of federal family planning policy in modern America since 1945. By examining federal family planning within the context of policy history, this book follows the development of this policy through a process of innovation, legislative enactment and administration imposition, program implementation, reappraisal, and politicization.

The modern family planning movement in the United States emerged from two distinct concerns -- overpopulation and the rights of women to legalized birth control. While the advocacy of contraception as a mechanism for liberating women from the arbitrary controls of a male-dominated society remained an important source of support for federal family planning, the movement for federally supported contraceptive programs that emerged in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War drew to its ranks a wide variety of people. Many of them remained indifferent to the issue of women's rights, treating it in perfunctory fashion or ignoring it completely. As a consequence, the primary impetus for federal family planning policy came initially from those who believed that overpopulation threatened political, economic, and social stability in the United States and the world.

These policy experts and activists who lobbied policy makers in Washington to initiate federally funded contraceptive programs saw family . . .

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