The Politics of Reproductive Health and Women's Rights: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Family Planning 2020
MetadataShow full item record
Global population policy has been a recurring topic on foreign policy and international development agendas since the end of World War II. Since its inception, initiatives have taken many forms, but all have included a family planning element. Prior to the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (the “Cairo Conference”), population policy was justified and applied under the premise of population control, which sought to limit fertility in poor countries with the goal of moving them forward on the traditional development trajectory (i.e. toward industrialization). In the years following, justifications and practices surrounding population policy shifted, and women and girls, reproductive health, human rights and empowerment were positioned at the center of narratives. Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), which is the most recent iteration of population policy to capture global consciousness, reflects this new way forward. In actuality, FP2020 has many of the same features as population control but is presented with new socially-acceptable discourse. Essentially, FP2020 exemplifies the intersection of the development industry, neoliberal ideology, private philanthropy in health governance, and population policy. In this paper, I argue that FP2020 reproduces narratives of elite global health and development institutions, like the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the Gates Foundation), to push agendas that reflect their own ideologies and interests, including the unobstructed pursuit of global capital. Among others, these narratives include an emphasis on harmonious multisector collaboration, and the realization of women’s human rights and empowerment. This discourse acts to subdue and counteract potential criticism and drive support from various stakeholders, including those traditionally critical of population policies, such as grassroots women’s health movements. In doing so, FP2020 does injustice to those it claims to serve, which are primarily women and girls living in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Guided by critical development theory, the method used in this paper is critical discourse analysis (CDA), which was performed on six key documents produced by FP2020.