Lawful Sins
Abortion Rights and Reproductive Governance in Mexico
Elyse Ona Singer


Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

The introduction presents the book's key dilemmas and traces the conceptual framework that forms the theoretical backbone of the book. It explains how I came to the study, including my prior work as an abortion counselor in the United States, and the distinct moral logics that define the Mexican abortion debate. Finally, it details the ethical and methodological considerations of researching sensitive aspects of reproductive health.

1 The Past Is Never Dead ... : Reproductive Governance in Modern Mexico
chapter abstract

Chapter 1 turns back in time to presage the 2007 reform with a brief tour through key aspects of twentieth-century Mexican reproductive governance. It frames the ethnographic material in the rest of the book by tracing state projects of eugenic pronatalism in the postrevolutionary period, the state-sponsored family planning of the Cold War era, and the struggle over abortion rights late in the twentieth century.

2 The Right to Sin: Abortion Rights in the Shadow of the Church
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 considers how women negotiate abortion decisions in a context where the law has come to contradict Catholic edicts and religious definitions of femininity. Regardless of their religious affiliation, women's moral approach to abortion reached beyond the normative positions codified in rights frameworks and religious directives to encompass wider environmental concerns about poverty and violence, the demands of motherhood, and aspirations for better individual and national futures.

3 Being (a) Patient: The Making of Public Abortion
chapter abstract

Through an account of women's experiences obtaining ILE services, chapter 3 reveals how the materialization of abortion rights in the Mexican capital is a contested process. When interrupting their pregnancies, ILE patients are cared for in the lowest rung of a deteriorating public health system where resources are scarce and demand is extreme. Their experiences reflect the moral uncertainties that trouble abortion in this context, as well as the equivocal tenor of the public care afforded to the country's poorest citizens.

4 Abortion as Social Labor: Protection and Responsibility in Public Abortion Care
chapter abstract

Chapter 4 considers the experiences of public clinicians who have been tasked with transforming abortion rights into concrete forms of care. I consider the ethical quandaries and practical challenges that accompany such an uneasy translation. Rather than emboldening women to exercise their reproductive rights, the ILE personnel saw their role in the clinic as an occasion to foster personal and collective responsibility among their patients. Providers called on women to avoid abortion to protect the vitality of Mexican society and its precious collective resources.

5 At the Limit of Rights: Abortion in the Extralegal Sphere
chapter abstract

Chapter 5 considers the limits of abortion rights, focusing on women living in the capital who are ineligible for ILE services because of gestational limits, as well as those living outside the capital where abortion is heavily criminalized. The chapter presents two abortion rights organizations that employ diverse strategies to expand access to abortion by subverting, or openly challenging, legal, geographic, and temporal restrictions on abortion.

chapter abstract

The conclusion touches on changes in North American reproductive governance that transpired after I completed the research for this book, and gestures to what we can anticipate in terms of practices of abortion in the US and Mexico in the future.