Accepted Paper:

Reproducing Inequalities: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) Promotion and the Urgency of Feminist Postcolonial STS  


Patrick Grzanka (University of Tennessee)
Jenny Brian (Arizona State University)

Paper short abstract:

Though celebrated as the magic bullet solution to unplanned pregnancy, long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) promotion represents a complex social problem that necessitates an integrative feminist postcolonial STS critique and intervention.

Paper long abstract:

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods, including the intrauterine device and the implant, have recently become the favored contraceptives of many legislators, health policy advocates, healthcare providers, and consumers in the contemporary United States. They argue LARC is an affordable, reliable, and safe means by which to reduce rates of unplanned (teenage) pregnancy and abortion; however, reproductive justice advocates suggest that LARC promotion reconstitutes eugenicist policies that target society's most vulnerable populations. For example, fifteen U.S. states currently encourage immediate post-partum LARC insertion for Medicaid recipients, who are disproportionately low-income women of color. In the face of institutional pressures, scientific debates about LARC's safety and efficacy, and cultural ideas about contraception, pregnancy, and family formation, individual social actors must negotiate whether LARC is indeed the "magic bullet" promised by public health advocates. LARC promotion - a contemporary form of technoscientific population control - represents a nexus of complex inequalities that invokes historical injustices shaped by the intertwined, intersecting histories of settler colonialism, scientific racism, heteropatriarchy, and nationalism. In this paper, we situate LARC promotion as a public health crisis that necessitates feminist postcolonial STS intervention. We articulate the exigency of such an intervention by exploring both the efficacy of an intersectional approach that incorporates insights from each of these domains while underscoring the limits of any one-dimensional approach that elides how White supremacy, nationalism, and heteropatriarchy co-constitute LARC technologies, policies, and practices. We emphasize the capacities of postcolonial feminist STS to interrupt rather than merely describe the heterogeneous consequences of LARC promotion.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS