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“Women of childbearing age”

…are increasingly referred to in the media, in health research, and in public health advisories as if childbearing age is a universal and fixed period of time, as if all women can and should have children, and as if women alone are solely responsible for the health of future generations.

Since the 1970s, medical research investigating women’s preconception health and the rise of public policy to address so-called fetal rights has resulted in the uncritical acceptance of “women of childbearing age” as a legitimate group on which research can be conducted and public health policy can be implemented. And while there are important reasons to address women’s health in relation to potential pregnancy, the ongoing categorization of women in terms of “childbearing age” may act as a barrier to free and informed decision-making.

“Perpetually, Potentially, Pregnant” is a three-year project that aims to develop an understanding of the emergence of “women of childbearing age” as the subjects of contemporary public health policy and research, focusing on the Canadian context. Using document analysis and interview-based research, it interrogates how the concept of “women of reproductive age” came to prominence and will develop strategies to address women’s reproductive autonomy in its wake.