Accounting for abortion: Accomplishing transnational reproductive governance through post-abortion care in Senegal
by Siri Suh
Global Public Health, 13 March 2017. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2017.1301513
Reproductive governance operates through calculating demographic statistics that offer selective truths about reproductive practices, bodies, and subjectivities. Post-abortion care, a global reproductive health intervention, represents a transnational reproductive regime that establishes motherhood as women’s primary legitimate reproductive status. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Senegal between 2010 and 2011, I illustrate how post-abortion care accomplishes reproductive governance in a context where abortion is prohibited altogether and the US is the primary bilateral donor of population aid. Reproductive governance unfolds in hospital gynecological wards and the national health information system through the mobilization and interpretation of post-abortion care data. Although health workers search women’s bodies and behavior for signs of illegal abortion, they minimize police intervention in the hospital by classifying most post-abortion care cases as miscarriage. Health authorities deploy this account of post-abortion care to align the intervention with national and global maternal health policies that valorize motherhood. Although post-abortion care offers life-saving care to women with complications of illegal abortion, it institutionalizes abortion stigma by scrutinizing women’s bodies and masking induced abortion within and beyond the hospital. Post-abortion care reinforces reproductive inequities by withholding safe, affordable obstetric care from women until after they have resorted to unsafe abortion.