Enhancing autonomy in reproductive decisions? : Education about family planning and fertility as a countermeasure against the low birthrate

Fassbender, Isabel

As Japan’s declining birthrate has been perceived as a major menace to its society since the 1990s, pronatalist policy approaches are again a source of social and political concern. This paper focuses on a number of political measures involved in ameliorating low birthrates – measures that emphasize the necessity of educating individuals about reproduction and fertility in order to enable them to make informed decisions. Investigated will be the question of how the new trend in the narrative of countermeasures focusing on education about reproduction can be evaluated, particularly regarding the question of how the notion of “autonomy” is to be understood in this context. The reference points in this deliberation are two dimensions of autonomy that have been carved out in various fields of scholarship: (i) autonomy as empowerment and (ii) autonomy as a neoliberal government technology. Furthermore, and constituting an additional level, are the issues of how gender is depicted in this narrative, and how its representation has to be evaluated in the context of autonomy. The argumentation is based on the analysis of the political narrative on pronatalist policy, concrete examples of its implementation, as well as contributions from sources critical of the policy.