Wednesday, March 10, 2021

O'Brien on abortion in Mexican history

 Elizabeth O'Brien (Johns Hopkins University) published the following article this past fall: "The many meanings of aborto: pregnancy termination and the instability of a medical category over time," Women's History Review (published online: 27 Oct. 2020). Here's the abstract: 

This article sheds light on an important facet of the history of abortion in Mexico: that is, moments in which doctors and priests reconciled the termination of pregnancy with religious ideologies, thus refracting the concept of abortion through a Catholic lens at different points in time. By underscoring ambivalences in the definition, implementation, and criminalization of abortive procedures, the research demonstrates that Mexican physicians periodically renamed or reconceptualized abortive procedures, thereby legitimizing them while constructing and reimagining the meaning of abortion itself. This allowed doctors to make fertility control compatible with religious ideologies and therefore legible to a range of spiritual and state authorities, but generally without overt challenges to Catholic claims about fetal life. The article argues that these historical cultures of Catholicized abortion—or, to use Morgan and Roberts’s term, ‘regime[s] of moral governance’—laid the historical groundwork for today’s chasm between practice and law.

Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi