Lets say were in the somewhat near future and our current forms of birth control have become more reliable, in particular female birth control is less likely to cause side-effects. The government has mandated that at a certain age (per-pubescent) all children will have birth control implanted which will prevent pregnancy.

To have a child someone must go through certain steps to have the birth control deactivated (for example perhaps a very short parenting class and a small, but manageable even by those who are not rich, deactivation fee, nothing intensive and not used as any subtle eugenics, just enough to ensure they really mean it and put some thought into it first). Lets say that the birth control tends to be reactivated after words, in short your not getting pregnant unless you actively make it happen.

Lets also say that medicinal skills have increased enough to make STD less threatening. I'm thinking that they can be treated, but it may be difficult and somewhat expensive to do so. However, since the treatment would be occurring regularly there is a technological equivalent of herd immunity in effect, the STD have difficulty spreading because their treated so soon after being infected, which in turn makes the society effectively immune even if all individuals aren't.

What would the cultural impacts of this be? Presumably sex would be less of a 'big deal', though I imagine concepts like cheating on your partner would still be quite strongly disproved of; I doubt we would turn into bonobos mating, literally, over a dropped hat.

Would we culturally discuss sex more openly? what would our sex ed for children be like? How would this effect when a child would be considered mature enough to have sex with their peers?

What sexual taboos might still exist?

Will our view of motherhood change now that it has to be a conscious decision? will traditional nuclear families be more or less common? Would we be less forgiving of bad or indifferent parenting if you had to sign up to be a parent? Would we start to have expectations of family size now that one can easily decide exactly what their ideal family size is?

How would we handle those that claimed that birth control was against their religious beliefs? Lets say for now that only one sex gets birth control regularly (presumably women, since biologically that seems like a easier challenge to do reliable and safely). If everyone is trained to assume that all women are on birth control and thus sex is 'safe' would the presence of those who objected to birth control be an issue due to the risk of someone not realizing the risk of intercourse with them? Would we develop some short hand way of indicating who was on birth control and who wasn't? some form of jewelry or clothing etc.

This would also decrease the population, and in particular the presence of unwanted children, which I expect to have a significant impact on society in itself. However, I've asked a second question about that effect: Effect of preventing unintended pregnancy on society

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    $\begingroup$ That's a lot of questions, but I suppose the latter eleven are all contained within the first. I assume you intend these in regard to general Western culture, and not to the entirety of modern society? Any specific country? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 3 '15 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre yes, I was debating if it was too much scope, but other then the last question, which I already made a different question for, the rest are all part of a general question and too minor to make their own stand alone question. It's fine if not all are answered in a given answer, I was more trying to give ideas of the sort of changes that may be interesting to talk about. As for culture I suppose target western, US or England, for culture. However, I think the stuff I'm most interested in will be pretty consistent across any western culture. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Jun 3 '15 at 13:52
  • $\begingroup$ Not to sound like a eugenics fiend, but I've advocated this exact thing if the technology existed. I've thought a great deal about the effects on society and culture, but I don't have time for an answer now. I'll post later hopefully. $\endgroup$ – frеdsbend Jun 3 '15 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ I just remembered, Kurt Vonnegut wrote at least one short story about mandatory birth control. Though as I recall, it also numbed sex drive. And his solution was a serial rapist. Vonnegut had some strange moments. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 3 '15 at 20:27

The most profound impacts would be those which come as side effects of a side effect of this approach: the loss of value of the individual.

What you have described is a government mandated implanted device in 50% of the population. This is not going to happen without sweeping changes to culture.

The government would basically be declaring "we have rights to not only your body, but the fundamental powers of nature which allow for birth." This is an unbelievably large power grab. The only way it would happen is if we first devalued the individual. If you could convince everyone they are merely ants in the collective system, they'd agree to this plan.

The potential for abuse is also heinous. Want to crush a minority? Fake deactivating their birth control devices 50% of the time. It wont take long for that minority to vanish entirely. Angry at a demographic that has too many children? Pass laws limiting the number of children per household.

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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, and just imagine the lawsuits if something went wrong and some people got sterilized. Not to mention the breach of separation between church and state (which I don't really mind in most cases, but it's a slippery slope). $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 3 '15 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon Actually I can think of an even easier strategy to whittle down the numbers of unpopular minorities than to fake deactivating their birth control devices 50% of the time. Just ensure that members of that group are somewhat more likely to fail the parenting class - nothing so obvious as making them all fail, just arranging that the barrier for one of those type of women to cross before being allowed to have a baby is higher than for the majority. In fact the unconscious prejudices of whoever directs the classes might have the same effect. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Jun 3 '15 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ First, you forget that China already does much the same thing with its one child policy. Second, there is a reasoning already used in some quarters from which it would logically follow. The claim is that human life begins at conception, but if so, then that newly conceived life is a person, not to be created at the whims (or through the carelessness) of its parents. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 3 '15 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ @AdamNicholls, if it were compulsory for the test to evaluate both parents, then single motherhood has been outlawed. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Jun 4 '15 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ @AdamNicholls I think that comment points to the real challenge with running this through the government. The government, as it is today, is expected to run on a set of rules. It could not implement mandatory BC without a set of rules to govern it. The question of whether you need both parents or just one parent is just the kind of detailed question that would be brutally difficult to get right, if there even is a right answer. By necessity, the law will fail to account for all circumstances, so it will get it "wrong" some of the time. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jun 4 '15 at 23:07

"To have a child someone must go through certain steps to have the birth control deactivated (for example perhaps a very short parenting class and a small, but manageable even by those who are not rich, deactivation fee, nothing intensive and not used as any subtle eugenics"

Why wouldn't it be? Once you have posited a state that has already justified, to itself and to the public, the involuntary modification of the bodies of all female children, why on earth would it then cavil at actually making use of the power placed in its hands?

Eugenics was extremely popular among people of both left and right. Not just in Fascist Italy or Nazi Germany, but in democratic countries like the US, Sweden and the UK. Eugenics was seen as rational, scientific, progressive and kind. The thing that killed off its popularity wasn't moral argument, it was its association with the enemy in WWII. Given that in your scenario the mechanism for eugenics is already in place it seems unlikely that the rulers would hold back from using it - particularly as they can, as Cort Ammon's answer says, easily do so in secret. If you think that doctors would never behave this way, consider the Tuskegee syphilis experiment in which treatment was secretly withheld from some African-American syphilis patients for decades. The medical staff who did this, some of whom were black, sincerely believed they were acting for the greater good.

Not that I think they'd long need to be secret. I think the first culture change following the introduction of mandatory birth control would be, obviously, a widespread acceptance that mandatory birth control should be applied to unpopular groups, i.e. for those seen as "welfare scroungers" or "defectives" to be prevented from breeding.

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In terms of how a single change would have ramifications reverberating throughout society, this is probably the most interesting worldbuilding question I have ever read on this forum. In light of that I've decided to add a second answer, looking more directly at some of the possible cultural impacts dsollen puts forward.

All the possible cultural impacts you discuss are plausible - but they are also relatively unimportant compared to other consequences. It's as if someone postulated that the main effect of forcibly implanting tracker devices in every human would be that no one ever got lost in the mountains; very likely true but beside the point. Mandatory contraceptive implants would mean, by definition, that women need the permission of others before having a child. That women should not have sovereignty over their own bodies and childbearing decisions has, of course, been the normal situation in most of human history. The present era in which the decision to bear a child was solely the province of that woman would come to be seen as a brief aberration of those foolishly indulgent Western liberal societies of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Will our view of motherhood change now that it has to be a conscious decision? - Yes, very much so. But the effect of it having to be a conscious decision of the mother will be accompanied (more like overwhelmed) by the effect of it also being a conscious decision of a government official.

will traditional nuclear families be more or less common? - They will be something close to compulsory, except for independently wealthy women.

Would we be less forgiving of bad or indifferent parenting if you had to sign up to be a parent? - Far less forgiving. This would certainly save some children from a neglectful upbringing. Less attractively, the definition of good parenting would be set by the state and would sharply narrow. No more "free range" children.

(Side note: the more democratic the process of deciding who is permitted bear a child or how they are allowed to raise their child is, the more oppressive it is likely to be. Historically, most human communities do not tolerate difference.)

Would we start to have expectations of family size now that one can easily decide exactly what their ideal family size is? - As with all these possibilities, the ominous part comes in when you consider who is deciding what the ideal family size is. By hypothesis, this now includes the state.

The most fascinating aspect of this change is that it could equally well be brought into being and justified by left wing arguments or right wing arguments. In fact I would predict some strange alliances, rather in the way that some modern day feminist puritans sound very like their religious forbears.

How would we handle those that claimed that birth control was against their religious beliefs? - If they can opt-out of the contraceptive implant by request, then it is not mandatory after all. So most of the effects of state control I have been describing do not occur. On the other hand in a very few generations much of your population is descended from, and has been brought up by, (a) the most religious, and (b) the most determinedly fertile section of the population.

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The system incentivizes corruption

Political parties will be highly motivated to use the control that they have to make it easy for their supporters to have kids, and very hard for their opponents' supporters to have kids.

Doing this will give a powerful edge. All else being equal, if one party (X) does it, and another party (Y) doesn't, X will have an advantage over Y.

In any election, there are safe districts and competitive districts.

Whenever X has control of a district for a lengthy period of time, the demographics shift in X's favor, because Y's supporters suddenly have a much harder time having kids. Y supporters will be further incentivized to move out of the district (so they can have kids).

When Y has control of a district, this isn't a thing that happens. (All other things are equal in this example, so Y doesn't compensate by doing something else instead.)

So when Y wins a contested district, there's a good chance it stays competitive in the future. But when X wins a contested district, it tends to become X territory forever.

The system corrodes unity and sows division

I really want grandchildren. If my party loses an election, my kids' procreation licenses will be stonewalled for years, if my new overlords deign to ever grant them at all. I know this. Everyone knows this, because that's what always happens.

In other words, your opponents are literally coming to take your children away.

Political systems only work because people are invested in 'the system' more than they're invested in the particular thing they wanted. People don't get fed up enough to say "No, I don't care the other guy "won" an "election". Screw that and screw you. I accept this over my dead body" and then actually start attacking the other side.

This system likely breeds constant and ongoing inter-party violence in contested areas. Protests outside of polling stations will give way to riots as folks decide to physically prevent their enemies from voting. Eventually this starts looking less like an electoral battle, and more like the opening stages of a civil war.

The system encourages eugenics

Governments want their problems to go away. This is a tool they absolutely will use to effect demographic change to get rid of the poor, the homeless, and any other flavor of 'undesirable'. We know this, because whenever governments have had similar powers in the past, that's what they've done.

Governments will establish quotas. They want their economy to have a certain demographic makeup. This sector's too small? That sector's too big? They have a lever they can pull on to effect change. What will they want? Even ignoring (very real) racial and classist motivations, they want high paying jobs.

High paying jobs engender economic growth. What jobs pay the most? Skilled labor. What does skilled labor generally require? Book smarts. So the government will be motivated to use eugenics to select for this trait.

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