Happy Abortionists: Considering the Place of Doctors in the Practice of Abortion in Australia since the Early 1990s

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    Abstract

    Abstract: Recent feminist scholarship about abortion in Australia has focused on the politics of abortion as it is played out in the law, the media, public discourse and political debate. This article seeks to offer new angles on the politics of abortion by focusing on the provision of abortion services and in particular the position of doctors in relation to abortion in Australia since the early 1990s. It crafts a theoretical framework to think about the place of doctors, and their patients, in abortion provision and sketches a history of doctors over the last two decades. It is based in a small interview project conducted by the author in 2013 and uses interviews to supplement documentary evidence with ‘inside information’ about local histories and the micro-politics of decision-making in order to build an account of the multifaceted position of doctors in relation to abortion. It also uses the interviews to build a picture of the subjectivity of doctors who play a crucial part in the provision of abortion services. It argues that the ‘pro-choice versus anti-abortion’ spectrum is inadequate for understanding the multiple negotiations that doctors make in relation to abortion. Responsibility is devolved, often to the individual, albeit in sometimes resistant environments. Neoliberal female consumer citizens, empowered by as well as subordinated to dominant discourses, are often oblivious to the history and politics that make abortions available. Some doctors, although caught up in these forces, claim to be ‘happy abortionists’.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)419-434
    Number of pages16
    JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
    Volume29
    Issue number82
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2014

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