When abortion becomes public - Everyday politics of reproduction in rural Zambia
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSocial Science and Medicine. 2020, 265, 113502. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113502
This article takes the public reaction to the discovery of an aborted foetus in a rural Zambian community as the empirical starting point for exploring the everyday politics of reproduction. It builds on eleven months of ethnographic fieldwork on abortion and abortion policy in Zambia in 2017 and 2018, including participant observation in the community where the episode took place and interviews with clinic staff and neighbours. The article explores local dynamics of abortion opposition in a country where abortion is legally permitted on broad grounds. By analysing this case as an anthropological event, it discusses how opposition to abortion is dynamic and changes depending on the situation at hand. While abortions that avoid public attention may be silently tolerated, abortions that become openly known are harshly condemned. Through scrutiny of a specific case of collective moral judgement of abortion, the article examines how values like responsible motherhood, sexual virtue and protection of life emerge and are shared, allowing participants to protect and accumulate their own integrity in a moral economy that forges stronger social ties within the community. The article argues that even the harshest expressions of opposition to abortion may not be as categorical as they first appear. It calls for increased attention to dynamics of moral and political opposition to abortion to understand what is socially at stake for those who engage in it.