Conceiving Medicalized Citizenship: Abortion Politics and Gendered Political Belonging

Claire McKinney | Assistant Professor, College William & Mary

Friday, April 5, 2019 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM


Why do abortion politics matter? Feminists have long argued that in addition to the importance of the denial of access to a necessary service, abortion politics mark the continued investment in the control of women’s bodies and the construction of womanhood as equivalent to motherhood. Without contesting this feminist insight, this paper argues that abortion politics can also turn our attention to a particular valence of the control of women’s bodies formed through the practice and knowledge production of medicine. Through an analysis of the 19th century criminalization of abortion, I posit the importance of understanding women’s partial political belonging as a form of what Etienne Balibar calls “internal exclusion,” conditioned on the ways in which women’s bodies become vehicles for establishing particular forms of political and social authority. Understanding women’s citizenship as a medicalized citizenship reveals the ways that extra-political social interaction produces horizons of meaning for contemporary abortion politics that remain centrally tied to questions of health as well as a diagnosis for the continued resistance to women’s full political belonging in the United States.