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Accepted Paper:

The Ethical Dilemma of Sterilization as a Reproductive Technology  
Iris Lopez (City College)

Paper short abstract:

Sterilization is one of the oldest reproductive technologies known today. Using an intersectional analysis, I analyze how the colonial history of Puerto Rican women has constrained their reproductive freedom and led them to have one of the highest rates of sterilization in the world.

Paper long abstract:

Sterilization is one of the oldest reproductive technologies known today. In the United States and Europe sterilization has its origins in the racist, sexist, and classist ideology of the eugenic movement. Yet, in the 21st century, sterilization is one of the most widely-used methods of fertility control in the world. In the U.S. women's reproductive rights have been eroding. The Supreme Court's Dobbs decision nullified Roe v. Wade, making abortion illegal in fourteen conservative states. The Dobbs decision has affected poor women unequally. Poor women do not have the income to travel to states where abortion is legal. Consequently, the rate of sterilization has been on the rise among poor racialized women in the United States and the U.S. commonwealth territory, Puerto Rico, where my research took place. In 1996 the rate of sterilization among married women in Puerto Rico 45%. Using an intersectional analysis, I analyze how the colonial history of Puerto Rican women has constrained their reproductive freedom. The reproductive technology of sterilization of Puerto Rican women in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland raises ethical questions about sterilization as well as other methods of assisted reproductive technology such as invitro-fertilization, gamete donors, and transnational surrogacy. These questions are: Who controls reproductive technology? Who has access to it and how is it used? What are the ideologies that justify it? How do we ensure that these practices are not exploitative? How do women fight for their reproductive freedom in this difficult global climate?

Panel P141
Doing and undoing reproduction [Medical Anthropology Europe [MAE]
  Session 2