Abstract: While abortion foes in the United States rhetorically promote “life,” discursive invocations of death are foundational to antiabortion advocacy. Pro-life strategists have made gains mandating the mourning of aborted fetuses through fetal burial bills, which require abortion providers to cremate or bury fetal tissue from abortion procedures. Fetal burial bills are inextricably tied to biopolitical regimes that make and manage grievable life. Drawing on cultural anthropology, feminist social science, critical race theory, and long-term research on white evangelicalism, this article examines government documents (e.g., Indiana statutes, court rulings, health reports, legislative activity, and state prosecutions) to provide a discursive critique of Indiana's fetal burial law. Constructions of aborted fetuses as grievable human life and the formations of personhood they promote undergird what anthropologist Leith Mullings called the necropolitics of reproduction—a framework explaining how reproduction is constitutive of political regimes that use systemic violence to determine who (or what) lives and dies. Legal conceptions of fetal personhood that hyper-value fetal subjects entwine with systemic racism, Christian ideology, and anti-environmentalism to diminish the Black and Brown bodies and environments on which their futures depend. This case is a bellwether for broader dynamics in anti-abortion policy and activism in the post-Roe era.
In this talk, we discussed how we interrogated the USICH report’s findings and overall framing. As scholars of public health and anthropology, we draw attention to significant flaws in the report’s evidentiary base, challenge core assumptions in the report’s discursive assumptions, and discuss data negating several key conclusions based on their ongoing community-based participatory research study on homelessness during COVID-19 in Indiana.
Putting two late-breaking roundtable sessions together for the AAA meetings was a team effort and huge success. We composed an in-person and a virtual session for discussing abortion. Here's our abstract:
Critical ethnographies of abortion are well-known for unsettling conventional understandings about what abortion means, what abortion politics do, and how people experience abortion in diverse historical, cultural, political, and geographic contexts. Such perspectives are essential for examining the implications of the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned nearly 50 years of federally protected abortion rights. The cultural and political history contributing to this reversal of rights, and the responses it provokes, are reverberating around the world and will continue to unfold for years, even generations, to come. At this critical juncture in global history, bringing scholars of abortion into an intergenerational, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary conversation is a crucial task to understand how we got here and where we might be going in this unsettling landscape.
In response to this urgent issue, we propose two complementary roundtables, one in person and one virtual, designed to engage the widest range of participation from panelists and audience members. Panelists will consider the following questions: What role have abortion politics played in advancing and entrenching particular “values,” cultural ideologies (of gender, kinship, personhood, etc.), and forms of power? What do ethnographies of reproductive governance, abortion activism, and reproductive health care reveal about politics, culture, and power? What can anthropological research in US states and nations that criminalize or severely constrain abortion tell us about what to anticipate from the Dobbs decision? What role can anthropologists play in responding to this crisis?
Part I, “Rupture and Continuity after Roe,” brings together intergenerational feminist scholars of abortion to consider changes and continuities in the global abortion landscape. Panelists bring a breadth of research experience in U.S. and non-U.S. contexts to the analysis of abortion in relationship to diverse social and political configurations. The roundtable aims to unsettle binary temporal conceptions of pre-and post-Dobbs abortion governance by underscoring the expansion and contraction of abortion rights over the past few decades. This roundtable will convene virtually.
Part II, “Working Across Landscapes of Advocacy and Care,” highlights critical ethnographies and policy analyses of abortion across multiple landscapes of activism, rights, and care. Drawing on interdisciplinary expertise in US and non-US contexts, panelists will discuss how their clinical experiences in reproductive healthcare and their research on abortion policies, access for marginalized peoples, and activist movements can inform anthropological contributions to advocacy efforts, locally and globally. This roundtable will convene in person.
This event brought members of the Purdue community together to learn how anthropologists of abortion are responding and to discuss how politics of reproduction intersect with our roles as students, researchers, teachers, mentors, employees, and members of diverse communities.
For the musically inclined, there's an accompanying PLAYLIST to listen to while perusing the special issue. So fun!
We're excited to kickstart our winter writing seminar with this powerful group. This project brings feminist scholars with wide-ranging expertise to collaboratively theorize across national cases toward an analysis of reproductive politics in expressions of what we have been calling “reproductive righteousness.” This seminar allows us to test how our hypothesis about the centrality of reproductive politics within right-wing movements manifests in particular examples of moral border-making, familiar dogmas, redemptive orders, etcetera. Rather than birds-eye-view analyses of what’s happening in a given national context, we are keen to examine particular and localized ways reproduction is centered in right-wing nationalism, e.g., in political rhetoric of particular leaders, political imagery, cultural narratives, social movement strategies, law and policies, among others. The details, we believe, will provide the bases for our co-thinking and co-theorizing. Thus, we hope in our work together to consider the particularities and similarities, across diverse regions, towards a coherent theorization of reproductive politics in right-wing extremism today.