Samira Mehta, University of Colorado-Boulder | Newberry

Samira Mehta, University of Colorado-Boulder

Friday, February 4, 2022

3-5 pm CST

In person at the Newberry Library

Religion and Culture in the Americas Seminar

Norplant and the Assumption of Irresponsible Parenthood, Samira Mehta, University of Colorado-Boulder

This paper traces the development of this logic of “responsible parenthood” as the freely chosen personal responsibility and domain of white Protestant couples to a morality that was externally imposed on black women through coercive functions of the state, particularly in attempts to link the use of contraception to the receipt of welfare. After a brief recap of the theology of responsible parenthood, in mid-century Protestant and Catholic contexts, it does this by contrasting the late 1980s-early 1990s debates about condom availability in the public schools with the attempt to cap welfare benefits for women who had “too many” children or to mandate Norplant for women receiving public assistance. While references to scripture, vocation, and prayerful decision-making about reproduction were absent from these secular debates, clear rhetorical lines connected responsible parenthood discourse to debates about both condoms and welfare, revealing the racial assumptions that had always structured the theology. In these clear rhetorical lines, one can see that the conversations about personal morality shored up an (imagined) white morality that can and must be maintained and that both imposes the cultural standards and expectations of a white middle class on the black working poor and seeing personal immorality when they cannot maintain or do not share those imposed on values.

Cost and Registration Information 

This event is free, but all participants must register in advance and space is limited. To register and request a copy of the pre-circulated paper, click here. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.