In years past there have been many articles lauding the use of IUDs (intrauterine devices) and other birth control methods as a way to combat poverty. A quick Google search can give you dozens at the tips of your fingers.
However, an article in the New York Times disagrees with this approach. In the op-ed titled “The Dangerous Rise of the IUD as Poverty Cure,” authors Dr. Christine Dehlendorf and Dr. Kelsey Holt, researchers at the UC San Francisco’s Person-Centered Reproductive Health Program discusses the dangers of this messaging. Included in their argument is a recounting of some of the blights on our nation’s history – using birth control methods to encourage people of low-income or minority races to have fewer children. From state-sponsored eugenics to federally-funded involuntary sterilizations, our country has experienced some pretty dark periods concerning women’s reproduction, especially amongst impoverished women or women of minority groups.
Though the IUD and today’s birth control is not the human rights violations of the past, Dehlendorf and Holt declare:
“…promoting them from a poverty-reduction perspective still targets the reproduction of certain women based on a problematic and simplistic understanding of the causes of societal ills. Such tactics could also, ironically, harm the quality of family-planning care for the very women they are intended to help.”
They also point out how simplistic it is to claim that such a birth control device could end the complex entity that is poverty. Their concern about the messaging is how this will affect clinicians advising those women who are poor. Will they receive equal treatment as those women above the poverty line, or will they be subtly pushed into a treatment method that they may have otherwise not chosen? Indeed, some research has shown low-income black and Hispanic women are more likely to be recommended to use an IUD than their low-income white counterparts.
This is an egregious offense and raises questions of morality and ethics. It makes one wonder if the goal is truly to cure poverty by actually increasing a person’s wealth or to cure poverty by decreasing the total population of a group that falls into that category. Both methods would result in reducing the number of impoverished groups, but the means is very, very different.
The Dangerous Rise of IUD as Poverty Cure
The New York Times
Christine Dehlendorf and Kelsey Holt
University of California at San Francisco
“Over the past decade, more and more women have begun using long-acting, reversible birth control methods like intrauterine devices and implants. These birth control methods are highly effective at preventing pregnancy but were previously not widely accessible because of high costs and lack of knowledge among health care providers. Increasing access to these methods, for women who want them, is a sign of progress.”
“However, many researchers, advocates and policymakers aren’t selling their rise solely as a victory for women’s health. They claim IUDs and implants may be a powerful new tool to fight poverty. This sort of language should set off alarm bells because the idea that limiting women’s reproduction can cure society’s ills has a long, shameful history in the United States.”
“Between 1909 and 1979, about 20,000 people were involuntarily sterilized in California — one of 33 states where compulsory sterilization in the name of eugenics and social well-being was legal in the 20th century. In the 1990s, multiple states proposed laws to incentivize or even require welfare recipients to use the new contraceptive Norplant — and while none of these became law, they helped shape public discourse. Even in recent years, some judges have offered reduced sentences to defendants who agree to be sterilized or use birth control. All of the above are instances in which the state sought to limit the reproduction of the poor, people of color and other groups, because of a belief that doing so would be for the good of society.”
“Today, this age-old idea that reproduction is to blame for societal problems has seen a resurgence in the current enthusiasm around long-acting, reversible contraception.”
Read full article: The Dangerous Rise of IUD as Poverty Cure