Controversies over abortion rights during the Italian ‘demographic winter’
My presentation examines the emergence and diffusion of the highly contested idea that abortion causes psychic disorder comparable to post-traumatic syndrome. Starting from the English speaking countries in the 80s, the debate about Post Abortion Syndrome has spread out in different national contexts, assuming various context specific forms. Ideas about the Post-Abortion Syndrome and, more widely speaking, about the consequences of voluntary terminations of pregnancy on women’s mental health have been used by anti-abortion activists as a tool to contest the argument that legal and safe abortion protects women’s health.
Based on field research conducted in Northern Italy, my presentation describes how the discourse about the risks of abortion for women’s mental health has progressively spread out among Italian anti-abortion activists, in a country with lowest-low fertility, where the access to abortion, defined as voluntary termination of pregnancy, often encounters several obstacles. In the public debate, pro-natalist arguments and moral panic around empty craddles substain a representation of fertility as a common good and a rhetoric on the social value of maternity that are not neutral for abortion rights. In my presentation, I analyze the interplay between anti-abortion mobilisation and public discourses on the demographic winter, questioning its effects on abortion governance as well as on women’s life – and mental health.
Claudia Mattalucci is an Assistant Professor at the University of Milan- Bicocca, where she teaches Anthropology of Kinship and Gender. After completing the Scuola di Alti Studi in Sciences of Culture at the Fondazione Collegio San Carlo in Modena, she obtained a scholarship from the Fyssen Foundation in Paris. She has worked on missions and missionary ethnography and on the anthropology of the body. Over the last eight years she has been working on abortion and pregnancy loss in Italy. http://www.formazione.unimib.it/persone/claudia-mattalucci/