Advertisement

Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 11–31 | Cite as

Lawful Sinners: Reproductive Governance and Moral Agency Around Abortion in Mexico

  • Elyse Ona Singer
Original Paper

Abstract

The Catholic Hierarchy unequivocally bans abortion, defining it as a mortal sin. In Mexico City, where the Catholic Church wields considerable political and popular power, abortion was recently decriminalized in a historic vote. Of the roughly 170,000 abortions that have been carried out in Mexico City's new public sector abortion program to date, more than 60% were among self-reported Catholic women. Drawing on eighteen months of fieldwork, including interviews with 34 Catholic patients, this article examines how Catholic women in Mexico City grapple with abortion decisions that contravene Church teachings in the context of recent abortion reform. Catholic women consistently leveraged the local cultural, economic, and legal context to morally justify their abortion decisions against church condemnation. I argue that Catholic women seeking abortion resist religious injunctions on their reproductive behavior by articulating and asserting their own moral agency grounded in the contextual dimensions of their lives. My analysis informs conversations in medical anthropology on moral decision-making around reproduction and on local dynamics of resistance to reproductive governance. Moreover, my findings speak to the deficiencies of a feminist vision focused narrowly on fertility limitation, versus an expanded framework of reproductive justice that considers as well the need for conditions of income equality and structural supports to facilitate reproduction and parenting among women who desire to keep their pregnancies.

Keywords

Reproductive governance Moral agency Catholicism Abortion Reproductive justice 

Notes

Funding

This study was funded by The Wenner-Gren Foundation: Grant # 8973, and the National Science Foundation: Grant # DGE-1143954. I also received a dissertation fellowship from the American Association for University Women (No Grant # provided).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of Washington University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

References

  1. Amuchástegui, Ana, and Edith Flores (2013) Women’s Interpretations of the Right to Legal Abortion in Mexico City: Citizenship, Experience and Clientelism. Citizenship Studies 17(8): 912-927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amuchástegui, Ana, Guadalupe Cruz, Evelyn Aldaz, María Consuelo Mejía (2010) Politics, Religion and Gender Equality in Contemporary Mexico: Women’s Sexuality Reproductive Rights in a Contested Secular State. Third World Quarterly 31(6): 989-1005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andaya, Elise (2014) Conceiving Cuba: Reproduction, Women, and the State in the Post-Soviet Era. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Blacksher, E. (2002) On Being Poor and Feeling Poor: Low socioeconomic status and the moral self. Theoretical Medicine 23: 455-470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blancarte, Roberto (2000) Popular Religion, Catholicism, and Socioreligious Dissent in Latin America: Facing the Modernity Paradigm. International Sociology 15(4): 591-603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fassin, Didier (2012) Économies Morales et Justices Locales. Revue Française de Sociologie 53(4): 651–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gammeltoft, Tine (2014) Haunting Images: A Cultural Account of Selective Reproduction in Vietnam. Berkeley: Univ of Calif Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Garcia, Angela (2015) Serenity: Violence, Inequality and Recovery on the Edge of Mexico City. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29(4): 455-472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Georges, Eugenia (1996) Abortion policy and practice in Greece. Social Science & Medicine 42(2): 509-519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ginsburg, Faye, and Rayna Rapp (1991) The Politics of Reproduction. Annual Review of Anthropology 20: 311–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ginsburg, Faye, and Rayna Rapp (1995) Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. University of California Pr.Google Scholar
  12. Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE) (2008) The Process of Decriminalizing Abortion in Mexico City, Ciudad de México.Google Scholar
  13. Hirsch, Jennifer S. (2008) Catholics Using Contraceptives: Religion, Family Planning, and Interpretive Agency in Rural Mexico. Studies in Family Planning 39(2): 93-104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Inhorn, Marcia C. (2011) Globalization and Gametes: Reproductive “Tourism”, “Islamic Bioethics”, and Middle Eastern Modernity. Anthropology and Medicine 18(1): 87-103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kahn, Susan Martha (2000) Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kleinman, Arthur (1999) Experience and Its Moral Modes: Culture, Human Conditions, and Disorder. Tanner Lectures on Human Values 20: 355–420.Google Scholar
  17. Lambeck, Michael, Veena Das, Didier Fassin and Webb Keane (2015) Four Lectures on Ethics: Anthropological Perspectives. Chicago: Hau Books.Google Scholar
  18. Lester, Rebecca J. (2005) Jesus in Our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Mishtal, Joanna (2015) The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Post-Socialist Poland. Athens: Ohio University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Mishtal, Joanna and Rachel Dannefer (2010) Reconciling Religious Identity and Reproductive Practices: The Church and Contraception in Poland. The European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care 15(4): 232-242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Morgan, Lynn and Elizabeth Roberts (2012) Reproductive Governance in Latin America. Anthropology & Medicine 19(2): 241–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Myers, Neely (2016) Recovery Stories: An anthropological exploration of moral agency in stories of mental health recovery. Transcultural Psychiatry 53(4): 427-444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Noonan, John T. (1967) Abortion and the Catholic Church: A Summary History. Natural Law Forum, Paper 126.Google Scholar
  24. Ortiz-Ortega, Adriana (2005) The Politics of Abortion in Mexico: The Paradox of Doble Discurso. In: W. Chavkin and E. Chesler (eds.) Where Human Rights Begin: Health, Sexuality, and Women in the New Millennium. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Paxon, Heather (2002) Rationalizing Sex: Family Planning and the Making of Modern Lovers in Urban Greece. American Ethnologist 29(2): 307-334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Peterson, Jeanette F. (1992) The Virgin of Guadalupe: Symbol of Conquest or Liberation? Art Journal 51(4): 39-47.Google Scholar
  27. Pew Research Center (2013) The Global Catholic Population. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/02/13/the-global-catholic-population/2014 Religion and Morality in Latin America. http://www.pewforum.org/interactives/latin-america-morality-by-religion/
  28. Price, Kimala (2010) What is Reproductive Justice?: How Women of Color Activists are Redefining the Pro-Choice Paradigm. Meridians 10(2): 42-65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Price, Kimala (2011) It’s Not Just About Abortion: Incorporating Intersectionality in research about Women of Color and Reproduction. Women’s Health Issues 21(3): 55-57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rapp, Rayna (2000) Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The social of Amniocentesis in America. NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Roberts, Elizabeth FS (2006) God’s Laboratory: Religious Rationalities and Modernity in Ecuadorian in Vitro Fertilization. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 30(4): 507–536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Roberts, Elizabeth FS (2012) God’s Laboratory: Assisted Reproduction in the Andes. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ross, Loretta and Rickie Solinger (2017) Reproductive Justice: An Introduction. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sánchez Fuentes, María Luisa, Jennifer Paine, and Brook Elliott-Buettner (2008) The Decriminalisation of Abortion in Mexico City: How did Abortion Rights Become a Political Priority? Gender and Development 16(2): 345-360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy (1992) Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Shepard, B. (2000) The “Double Discourse” on Sexual and Reproductive rights in Latin America: the Chasm Between Public Discourse and Private Actions. Health and Human Rights Journal 4(2): 110-143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Elyse Ona Singer (2016) From Reproductive Rights to Responsibilization: Fashioning Liberal Subjects in Mexico City’s New Public Abortion Program. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. doi: 10.1111/maq.12321.Google Scholar
  38. Thompson, Charis (2006) God Is in the Details: Comparative Perspectives on the Intertwining of Religion and Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 30(4): 557–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Trexler, Richard C. (2003) Reliving Golgotha: The Passion Play of Iztapalapa. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Sargent, Carolyn (2006) Reproductive Strategies and Islamic Discourse. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20(1): 31-49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Voekel, Pamela (2002) Alone Before God: The Religious Origins of Modernity in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zigon, Jarrett (2007) Moral Breakdown and the Ethical Demand A Theoretical Framework for an Anthropology of Moralities. Anthropological Theory 7(2): 131–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zigon, Jarrett (2008) Morality: An Anthropological Perspective. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies and Training CenterBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

Personalised recommendations