Regulating Contraception and Abortion

As set out in Chap. 2, maternal sacrifice is the trope that can weave together complex ideas about reproduction and define when and which women should become mothers. As contraception and abortion are ways to prevent motherhood, this chapter will show how ideas about good motherhood define who should refrain from considering childbearing for the good of imagined children or to reduce a possible cost to future society. The idea of maternal sacrifice means that women who are culturally expected to ‘fail’ at motherhood should prevent pregnancy, even if they desire to be mothers. For some women, this sacrifice may not be life-long. If they later move into the category of potentially good mothers, perhaps by becoming older or wealthier, then their sacrifice might only be temporary. Others, however, may never fit the criteria for good motherhood, and thus should always forgo becoming pregnant.

As this chapter will detail, this picture is fairly straightforward in relation to contraception but can be more complex in regards to abortion. Whilst attitudes and access to both contraception and abortion in different social, cultural and national settings vary considerably, it is often the case that the former is considered more acceptable than the latter. As I will demonstrate, for those who oppose abortion, concerns about the developing foetus can

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016 P. Lowe, Reproductive Health and Maternal Sacrifice, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-47293-9_3

overtake the undesirability of some pregnant bodies. Yet here too we can see how sacrifice is utilized, as anti-abortion activists insist that women continue with pregnancies regardless of any cost to themselves. However, before these issues are explored in depth, it is necessary to consider further the meaning of contraception and abortion more generally. The divide between contraception and abortion is often taken for granted, yet is constructed socially by and through particular understandings.

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