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Ōta Tenrei’s defense of birth control, eugenics and euthanasia

Ōta Tenrei (1900–1985) was a gynecologist, socialist, birth control activist, sexologist, aswell as an advocate of eugenics and euthanasia, who participated in the enactment of the Eugenic Protection Law (1948–1996) and founded the Japan Euthanasia Society (1976, now the Japan Society for Dying with Dignity). Ōta had progressive views onsexuality, women’s rights, and reproduction, especially vocal in hisadvocacy of abortion rights. At the same time, he was an advocate of eugenics and he attempted to legalize euthanasia in Japan, arguing among other reasons that some people were a “burden” on society. This article examines Ōta’s advocacy of seemingly contradictory causes such as abortion, eugenics, and euthanasia. It suggests that first, for Ōta all these causes were progressive, aimed at creating a “better world,” and second, he put an excessive stress on autonomy, disregarding rights of those who lacked it, be itfetus, people in a vegetative state, or the intellectually disabled.


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Contemporary Japan


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