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Accepted Paper:

Doctors as Mediators: Between Family Expectations and Reproductive Governance in the Face of China's Pronatalist Policies  
Ziqi Xie (Boston University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper explicates how and why the national demographic anxiety and the pronatalist call propagated by the state are rarely translated into doctors’ clinical practices in Chinese IVF clinics even though medical professionals are often the active agents of the state’s reproductive governance.

Paper Abstract:

In 2016, China replaced its 36-year-long One Child Policy with a universal Two-Child Policy, which was soon substituted by the Three-Child Policy in 2021. The close interweaving between the state’s population and reproductive governance and Chinese medical institutions often renders the health professionals, as or being viewed as the active agents of biopolitical governance. However, my 23 months of fieldwork in two top-ranking IVF clinics between 2017 and 2023 reveals that even the doctors’ seemingly accordant discourses and practices oftentimes do not parallel the government’s goals. Invoking medical and ethical concerns rather than their role as policy implementers, the doctors position themselves as professionals holding biomedical authority. Whereas the new population policies have transferred the responsibilities and expectations of reproduction from medical institutions to families, doctors rather than the patients often serve as “moral pioneers” to cut off these transfers of reproductive responsibility through their medical authorities. On the one hand, this stance leads to the doctors’ emphasis on women’s “advanced age” and low success rates due to female infertility, which unwittingly helps reinscribe the state’s disparagement of declining fertility rates caused by women. On the other hand, the medical professionals’ advice and practices coincidentally side with the women’s reproductive autonomy which conflicts with their family members’ desire and the state’s call for multi-child families. The state sentimentalizes the demography anxiety and defines reproduction biomedically and demographically, which nevertheless is reframed and reenacted by the doctors, supplemented by their ethical definitions of well-being and moral reasonings about an ideal family.

Panel OP309
Healthcare actors and their doings
  Session 9