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A Glass Half Empty: Latina Reproduction and Public Discourse


Latina reproduction and fertility have become ground zero in a political war-not just of words, but of public policies and laws. This article builds on a theoretical framework that includes issues of stratified reproduction, which characterize some women as reproductive threats to society. From an examination of the discourse found in 10 national magazines over a 35-year period, beginning in 1965, emerge three interrelated themes concerning Latina reproductive threat: 1) high fertility and population growth: 2) reconquest: and 3) overuse of medical and other social services. The final section examines data on reproduction and fertility collected from Latinas and Anglo women in Orange County, California to explore the "truth claims" associated with Latina reproduction and fertility. The findings suggest that Latinas do not begin sexual activities at a relatively early age nor do they have relatively more sexual partners than Anglo women. Most Latinas have used birth control pills at some point in their lives. Latinas generally have fewer than two children per woman. Mexican-origin women born or raised in the United States had fewer children than adult immigrants, and their differences from Anglo women were insignificant. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression finds that age, marital status, education, and language acculturation are more important than ethnicity for understanding fertility. © 2004 by the Society for Applied Anthropology.

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