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Influences on U.S. International Population and Reproductive Health Policy Open Access

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The United States has been a global leader in the international population arena for nearly fifty years, but the domestic policy debate around international population and reproductive health issues has been increasingly characterized by politicization and partisanship. This study explores the strategies and discourse that have been designed and employed to influence the direction and scope of U.S. international population policy over time, including those used by interest groups and members of the United States Congress themselves. Through a case history, qualitative interviews and a descriptive and interpretative content analysis of congressional debates, I assessed:1. How interest groups and their issue definition, messages and strategies, have sought to influence United States international population policy over time. Specifically, have these messages and strategies influenced the positions of federal policymakers around international population policy? 2. How the gender and political party affiliation of members of Congress have influenced their support for international population programs. Are female legislators more likely than their male counterparts to pursue a pro- international reproductive health and rights agenda? 3. The tone of discourse employed by male and female members of Congress when speaking and voting on international reproductive health and rights issues on the House floor.My goal was to understand the quest by advocates on both sides of the international family planning issue to shift policy around this issue to their benefit. I find that the Religious Right has successfully managed to alter the debate about international family planning and reproductive health, including by deliberately conflating family planning with abortion. I find evidence of a growing partisan divide around these issues in the U.S. Congress, in both voting and speaking patterns. Finally, I conclude that female members of Congress engage more frequently and more positively on international family planning than do their male counterparts.

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