Women's bodies, abortion and reproductive rights.

Special issue on:

Women's bodies, abortion and reproductive rights. Statements and perspectives.

Edited by: Alisa Del Re (Università degli Studi di Padova), Lorenza Perini (Università degli studi di Padova)

With our research proposal we want to encourage a debate on the issue of abortion choices that women can make in Europe, in the U.S. and Latin America as well as in other parts of the World.

The trajectories and strategies that result from these choices are strongly influenced by the way in which the legal systems and the national laws relate to abortion; by the moral and ideological visions from which they come from; by the critical points and the limitations in the application of the laws; by the meaning that women's body assumes in gender cultures that characterize the social and community contexts in which they live.

In the national contexts in which the requests to decriminalize abortion and to ensure unimpeded and not discriminatory access to this practice are most felt, it happens that current religious fundamentalism and conservative forces strive to thwart the right of women to choose.

From this point of view, the focus on abortion is linked to the broader issues of reproductive rights and women's freedom to dispose of their body. Compared to these issues, abortion is certainly a litmus test to check the current status of citizenship of women in the world.

However, this special issue is also open to contributions that discuss reproductive rights and women's freedom to use their body giving preference to other objects of research, such as artificial insemination, sterilization policies, access to contraceptive methods.

The aspects on which this special issue intends to focus are as follows:

  1. Where abortion is permitted, at least under certain conditions: the Italian case and not only

Our observations depart from the Italian case, which sees a daily questioning of the 194/1978 law which regulates the voluntary interruption of pregnancy. A massive increase of the presence of conservative movements – mostly Catholic- on the territory and in the institutions (see the case of the Pro-life Movement, that has worked hard on conscientious objection to obtain a large membership by physicians) in recent years has had the effect of decreasing gradually, and in a more clear-cut, the prerogatives of the law, even make it in some cases and in some areas of the country almost completely inapplicable. Two recent conferences - the first of the movement "Usciamo dal silenzio" and the second organized by the physicians non objectors - have raised the issue of the full implementation of the law, proposing to publish a “manifesto” and a petition in support of 194/1978 law as well as a reflection on a possible reform of conscientious objection on this matter. This seems to be the sign that - at least in Italy, but certainly not only here - there is a strong need to reflect on the legal regulation of the phenomenon of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy and on the limits to the application of the laws. We ask: what are the limitations on the legal, political, and socio-cultural point of view that impede women's access to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy? In which countries and in what situations the public debate and institutions are leading towards a redefinition as a limitation of a right that was thought as acquired? How do women's movements react to such threats? What are the elements that could contribute to a higher quality of the relationship between women and (their) choice of procreation?

  1. Where abortion is prohibited.

There are countries where abortion is expressly forbidden (usually by providing for criminal penalties) and countries where the practices of illegal termination of pregnancy seriously threaten women’s health, sometimes causing death (in Africa, in Latin America, but also in some European countries). Often the willingness of women to choose whether or not to have children collides with the will of the Churches, of traditional ideologies and of patriarchal systems that actually have the control of their bodies. To exacerbate even more their condition of subordination, International organisms such as AID and IPPF propose policies of forced sterilization for birth control. On the other hand, according to the international agreements, governments are compelled to ensure high standards of health protection, not to discriminate and to ensure that no one would suffer inhuman and degrading treatment.

On these issues, the questions we wonder are: what are the effects on women's health of the criminalization of the abortion? What are the practices of abortion that women still bring into being? What is the level of public debate on these issues? Who are the subjects fighting for the decriminalization of abortion, and what arguments and actions do they put in place?

In short, considering the focus of this call for paper on the issue of abortion, but considering also the more general issue of the reproductive rights, what we ask to the contributions of research is to tap one or more of the following points:

1) A map of the World regarding the laws, customs and effectiveness of interruption of pregnancy: case studies / settings / social processes on the rights of women to chose to have children.

2) The struggles and resistances of women in this isse, proposals, case law, legislative measures limiting of pre-existing rights, or legalizing rights previously denied.

3) Policies of family planning through forced sterilization, abortion ban, selective abortion, artificial insemination limits.

The disciplinary approaches involved in this field of research are manifold. We particularly welcome contributions from the following fields of study: legal, philosophical, historical, political science and social sciences.

Contributions should be the minimum length of 6,000 words and written in one of the two languages in which the magazine is published (Italian and English), see the Authors guidelines for any further information.

Contributions must be sent by 30th September 2013

ISSN: 2279-5057