U.S. Catholics’ Transnational Anti–Birth Control Activism in Postwar Japan
This chapter demonstrates how transnational religious networks, racial tensions, and competing sexual norms affected official policies during social and political changes in postwar Japan and the United States. Following World War II, U.S. intellectuals and political leaders feared that an overpopulated Japan posed a racial and ideological threat to global stability. Attributing Japan’s military expansionism during World War II to its high fertility, U.S. officials and scholars in Occupied Japan considered population control—primarily through the use of contraceptives—as vital to Japan’s peaceful recovery and transformation into a democratized ally. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and a growing Holocaust consciousness, American Catholic protesters raised the specters of genocide and imperialism to call attention to the eugenic ideas infiltrating the Anglo-Protestant mission to fight “overpopulation” in Japan and other parts of the developing world. American Catholic priests, Catholic organizations, and the Catholic press in Japan effectively used transnational networks to stymie what they saw as the rapid degeneration of sexual morals caused by the spread of contraceptives. The religious-inspired controversy over birth control policies in Japan was, for American Catholics, ultimately an interreligious American battle over the politics of procreation, sexual morality, and a national-racial future.
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