Care and Stigmatization of Aborting Women in Medical Institutions: The Social Class of Women under Control

By Marie Mathieu, Lucile Ruault

Since 1975 and the exclusive transfer of authority over abortions to the medical sphere, the State government of women’s reproductive work has undergone some profound transformations. This article advocates a sociological analysis of the application of public health policy, so as to examine the concrete evolutions of the birth control policy and the professional commitment it entails. Drawing on a variety of materials – including ethnographic observation in different abortion structures, interviews with both healthcare providers and women who interrupted their pregnancies in France –, we foster to analyse the institutional process of abortion. The spatial arrangement in medical encounters, the organization of examinations, professional practices and the interaction rules contribute to label aborting women and, therefore, to inertia of social representations. Stigmatization of target populations and the normative construction of reproductive courses structure with education work and domestication of deviant women, then enjoined to adhere to contraceptive and procreative standards and to the exceptional use of abortion.

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