This panel examines the articulation of abortion politics with new social formations across moral, medical, political, and scientific fields in 21st century, and maps possible directions for future analysis in this contested anthropological research arena.
This panel engages with the theme of power in relation to both the topic of abortion rights and policies, as well as with the trajectory of anthropological engagement with this topic. Women's right to legal abortion in many nations in Europe and elsewhere is fraught with uncertainties. In some nations it is facing increasingly significant challenges since its widespread legalization in the post-World War II era. Legislation restricting rights and access to abortion has been introduced and passed in some European nations, especially in Eastern Europe, and in the United States where restrictions are increasing at an unprecedented rate and constitute the litmus test for politicians in electoral politics. Furthermore, serious obstacles to abortion access are increasingly evident in procedural barriers and conscience-based refusals by healthcare providers, while anti-abortion/pro-life movements are working with renewed vigor. Yet, there are relatively few ethnographic studies of abortion qua abortion since Faye Ginsburg's pathbreaking study, Contested Lives (1989), published over 25 years ago. This panel will examine the articulation of abortion politics with new social formations across moral, medical, political, and scientific fields in 21st century. We consider how the study of abortion provides a sharply focused lens onto broader theoretical debates around: gender and personhood; the legitimacy of scientific knowledge; neoliberalism; the role of women and women's rights in a liberal democracy; church-state relations; and social justice movements. This panel also maps possible directions for future empirical and theoretical analyses in this enduring and contested anthropological research arena.