Foundations of Federal Fertility Policy

For years, open discussion of fertility issues in governmental circles was taboo. Recognition of the effect of population growth in countries receiving United States economic aid and political maturation of the environmental movement gave added impetus to consideration of fertility issues. Increasing visibility, however, was accompanied by confusion. Some sought governmental initiatives aimed at reducing or stabilizing aggregate population size; others supported family-planning programs for the poor as a component of the Great Society, with emphasis on atomistic goals such as maternal and child health and parental choice in determining family size. Not only do goals and orientation differ, but also there is disagreement about the demographic evidence. Some argue that programs aimed at promoting choice and focused on the poor will achieve population stability while others believe such a limited target will not achieve populationist goals and indeed will run the risk of criticism as race or class legislation. So far, domestic legislation has conformed to atomistic family goals, focusing on the poor, but the current administration seems to be backing away from its commitment in line with a general de-emphasis of categorical programs. It may be that only by joining forces can family planners and population controllers resist erosion of previous political gains.

Author(s): James F. Blumstein

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Volume 52, Issue 2 (pages 131–168)
Published in 1974