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From population control to reproductive rights : constructing abortion and contraception in postwar Japan Coutts, Holly Kristin

Abstract

Japan’s unusual postwar reproductive policy has been examined in the past using religion and interest groups as the primary units of analysis. This thesis will highlight the flaws in these examinations and introduce reproduction as a social problem in postwar Japan using the social constructionist approach. The primary period to be analyzed, 1945-1948, witnessed the struggle between two policy options for the treatment of birth control in Japan. Both options had prominent supporters yet the Japanese Diet chose the option which legalized abortion and blocked the introduction of new contraceptives into the Japanese market. I argue that the content of this policy was determined by a claims-making process infused with ideas about maternal protection and eugenics. From these ideas, an image of the type of woman having abortions, along with the reasons why she was having them, was created. This, combined with the strong centralized Japanese state of the late-1940s’ led to the adoption of Japan’s unique reproductive policy.

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