Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Contraception in Aotearoa: Shaped by and Shaping Family, Morality, Religion, Science, and Women's Reproductive Rights

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posted on 2021-08-10, 01:27 authored by Gilling, Russyl

Throughout the history of contraception in Aotearoa, the position of women as contraceptive users has been shaped by society and legislation. At the beginning of the twentieth century, due to the racial fears of the time, legislators banned contraceptive use from the feared mortality of white New Zealanders. The eugenic and racial logics that drove the original prevention of access to contraceptives were also influential in the establishment of organisations like the New Zealand Family Planning Association that was able to work towards establishing birth control clinics. Family and religious morality played a major role in how people responded to contraceptive use. In 1954, they were mobilised in the Mazengarb Inquiry, condemning parents who did not fit into the narrow roles expected of them by the Inquiry members. They appeared again throughout the 1977 Royal Commission into Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion. Family and religious morality not only shaped these investigations, but also the ways individuals responded to different aspects of contraception and the surrounding conversation. The personal morality of individual Members of Parliament shaped their position in the debate of the 1977 Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Bill and with how doctors and other medical professionals responded. This culminated in decision-makers and individuals in the public sphere imposing their own morality to justify conflating abortion and contraception, which resulted in doctors and other medical professionals controlling access to contraception. In Aotearoa, women’s ability to access contraception and contraceptive information, controlled and restricted by these political, legal, and moralistic forces as exemplified and focused by these key events, has shaped their position as contraceptive users.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Science in Society

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Centre for Science in Society

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Centre for Science in Society


Addison, Courtney; Sheoran Appleton, Nayantara