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Jinko Mondai Kenkyu. 1981 Oct;(160):61-77.

[Essay on the history of population policy in modern Japan. 2. Population policy on quality and quantity in National Eugenic Law (author's transl)].

[Article in Japanese]



Following the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937, the Japanese government established the Ministry of Health and Welfare and adopted, in 1938, the policy of population increase. The government began at once to formulate the National Eugenic Law which was promulgated in 1940 and put into force in 1941. The original draft of the law was first prepared by the members of the Imperial Diet since 1934. It included no prohibition concerning abortion or sterilization, but before the government submitted the bill to the Diet, and even after its enforcement, the restriction on birth control had gradually been strengthened. The law not only allowed sterilization to prevent reproduction of inferior descendants but prohibited sterilization and strictly limited induced abortion. At the same time, it was used as a means of strong support for the suppression of contraception. The eugenic movement did not advocate contraception as a means of eugenic control because it feared counterselection through the diffusion of contraception only among the intelligent or superior elements in the population. During the 1920s, the eugenic movement in Japan advocated contraceptives as a means of practicing eugenics, but then it adapted policies concerning population increase and assisted in the suppression of birth control. Eugenic measures became law when they were combined with a policy of population increase, and policy concerning population increase became realized as eugenic law. Many criticisms and objections were posed by the members of the Imperial Diet. Some were opposed to the principle of eugenics in the context of Shintoism. This law created tension between obstetricians and the government with regard to induced abortion. The Japanese Association of Obstetrics made the standard for medical application of induced abortion in 1943 and the government altered the judging authority from police administration to that of hygiene in 1942. The Eugenic Protection Law which was published in 1948 eased the tension in the field of maternal health in accordance with the general acceptance to slowdown population growth. But the law incorporated the same cautions concerning contraception. These aspects of the law, which were derived from the National Eugenic Law, strongly affected the mode of rapid fertility decline in Japan after the War. (author's)

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