Morehead State University

Poster Title

Issues on Women's Reproductive Rights, 1980-1989

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, employers, such as General Motors, St. Joe’s Minerals, Allied Chemicals, Olin, and B.F. Goodrich, adopted policies that banned women of childbearing potential from jobs that involved toxic chemicals. In some cases, women were told that in order to keep their jobs they had to be sterilized or risk being fired or demoted to lesser paying positions. These policies became known as “protective exclusion policies” and were debated into the late 1980s. They gave employer’s incentives not to hire women, thus women opposed them as a form of sex discrimination. Additionally, the practice of coerced sterilization was secretly being performed by health departments and debated by government officials who were concerned about the reproduction of feeble-minded women and criminals. As well, the reproduction of teenagers and out-of-wedlock individuals became the center of political debate, even though teenage births were decreasing. Furthermore, scholars have failed to give significant focus to the sterilization and reproductive trends that occurred during the 1980s, such as teenage pregnancy and protective exclusion policies in the workplace, thus limiting the significance of these trends in the larger historical context. By examining 1980’s culture, reproductive politics and employment policies in relation to women’s rights, one could conclude that sterilization abuse was still a societal concern, the political debate over teenage pregnancy was a rhetorical surrogate for the larger issue of welfare and the “underclass” and exclusionary protective policies were a direct reaction to second wave feminism and gender equality.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 

Issues on Women's Reproductive Rights, 1980-1989

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, employers, such as General Motors, St. Joe’s Minerals, Allied Chemicals, Olin, and B.F. Goodrich, adopted policies that banned women of childbearing potential from jobs that involved toxic chemicals. In some cases, women were told that in order to keep their jobs they had to be sterilized or risk being fired or demoted to lesser paying positions. These policies became known as “protective exclusion policies” and were debated into the late 1980s. They gave employer’s incentives not to hire women, thus women opposed them as a form of sex discrimination. Additionally, the practice of coerced sterilization was secretly being performed by health departments and debated by government officials who were concerned about the reproduction of feeble-minded women and criminals. As well, the reproduction of teenagers and out-of-wedlock individuals became the center of political debate, even though teenage births were decreasing. Furthermore, scholars have failed to give significant focus to the sterilization and reproductive trends that occurred during the 1980s, such as teenage pregnancy and protective exclusion policies in the workplace, thus limiting the significance of these trends in the larger historical context. By examining 1980’s culture, reproductive politics and employment policies in relation to women’s rights, one could conclude that sterilization abuse was still a societal concern, the political debate over teenage pregnancy was a rhetorical surrogate for the larger issue of welfare and the “underclass” and exclusionary protective policies were a direct reaction to second wave feminism and gender equality.