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Abortion, Family Planning, and Population Policy: Prospects for the Common-Ground Approach

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For the past several decades those engaged in shaping the Program of Action documents at international conferences on population have muted their voices when the topic of abortion has been raised. In a desire to side-step entanglement in a bitter debate over the morality of abortion, great care has been taken to define “family planning” in ways that explicitly exclude abortion. The “common-ground” approach to treating abortion can be summarized in two directives found in all contemporary international population documents: “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”; and all governments should work “to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family-planning services.” This article has three goals: first, to examine the appropriateness of these directives with respect to what is currently known about the relationship between abortion, family planning, and population policy; second, to trace how this “contraception-only” definition of family planning became de rigueur at international population conferences; and third, to discuss the prospects for the emergence of a more appropriate “common-ground” approach to abortion and population policy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fairfield University, Fairfield, CT.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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