Presentation Title

Indiscrete Bodies: Towards New Models of Subjectivity in Abortion Rhetoric from 2015 - 2016

Faculty Mentor

Julie Prebel

Start Date

18-11-2017 1:45 PM

End Date

18-11-2017 2:00 PM

Location

15-1828

Session

Humanities 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

Recently, the United States has seen a surge in restrictive abortion policies and legislation, and with it, a surge of discourse surrounding that legislation. Rather than look at the arguments of the pro-life and pro-choice advocates, this essay examines how abortion rhetoric presents and therefore defines the pregnant female subject, in terms of the relationship between the pregnant woman and her body. By analyzing 12 articles from popular news sources between 2015 and 2016, this essay observes that in abortion rhetoric, women are either reduced to their bodies, or completely removed from their bodies. While these discursive representations may seem contradictory, this essay argues that they both utilize an underlying ideology of discreteness – the ability to be separated clearly into mutually exclusive parts. Either a woman is only her body, or she is entirely separate from it. However, a pregnant subject is inherently indiscrete, and exists in a liminal state. Using the notions of liminality Mary Douglas elaborates in her book Purity and Danger, this essay argues that the pregnant body is dangerous because it exists in a liminal space – simultaneously two and yet one, self and other, on the border of life and non-life. Abortion legislation seeks to create order in an inherently indiscrete subject, and the discursive representations reinforce a dominant ideology of discreteness and separation. To effectively argue against abortion restrictions, we need representations of liminality throughout the discourse. In her book Volatile Bodies, Elizabeth Grosz envisions a more fluid model of subjectivity that would serve abortion rhetoric well. Instead of trying to create distinction and discreteness in pregnant bodies through legislation and discourse, we must accept the impossibility of definition in the gray area of pregnancy, and embrace a fluid pregnant subject and the many options they have regarding their pregnancy, abortion included.

Summary of research results to be presented

This essay concludes that throughout abortion rhetoric, women are either reduced to their bodies, or removed from their bodies completely. There are not sufficient representations of women that embrace the liminal positionality of pregnancy, and the power that comes with being able to exist in that space, or opt out of it through abortion. Abortion restrictions, and the discourse that surrounds them, aim to control and mitigate the liminal power of women, and put women into a neat category. This essay concludes that to defeat abortion restrictions, we need new models of subjectivity throughout abortion rhetoric – models that, instead of reifying discreteness and opposition, embrace pregnant persons as fluid subjects. This essay argues that abortion discourse should include stories of non-mothers who have abortions for reasons that are not medical necessity. Discourse should highlight and lift up the voices of people of color. Fetal tissue should not be separated from where and how it is produced. There should be representations of queer, trans, and gender-non-conforming individuals who have abortions. Pregnancy should be presented throughout abortion discourse as a fluid process in a field of possible embodiments, and abortion should be offered as a possibility for any pregnant person.

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Nov 18th, 1:45 PM Nov 18th, 2:00 PM

Indiscrete Bodies: Towards New Models of Subjectivity in Abortion Rhetoric from 2015 - 2016

15-1828

Recently, the United States has seen a surge in restrictive abortion policies and legislation, and with it, a surge of discourse surrounding that legislation. Rather than look at the arguments of the pro-life and pro-choice advocates, this essay examines how abortion rhetoric presents and therefore defines the pregnant female subject, in terms of the relationship between the pregnant woman and her body. By analyzing 12 articles from popular news sources between 2015 and 2016, this essay observes that in abortion rhetoric, women are either reduced to their bodies, or completely removed from their bodies. While these discursive representations may seem contradictory, this essay argues that they both utilize an underlying ideology of discreteness – the ability to be separated clearly into mutually exclusive parts. Either a woman is only her body, or she is entirely separate from it. However, a pregnant subject is inherently indiscrete, and exists in a liminal state. Using the notions of liminality Mary Douglas elaborates in her book Purity and Danger, this essay argues that the pregnant body is dangerous because it exists in a liminal space – simultaneously two and yet one, self and other, on the border of life and non-life. Abortion legislation seeks to create order in an inherently indiscrete subject, and the discursive representations reinforce a dominant ideology of discreteness and separation. To effectively argue against abortion restrictions, we need representations of liminality throughout the discourse. In her book Volatile Bodies, Elizabeth Grosz envisions a more fluid model of subjectivity that would serve abortion rhetoric well. Instead of trying to create distinction and discreteness in pregnant bodies through legislation and discourse, we must accept the impossibility of definition in the gray area of pregnancy, and embrace a fluid pregnant subject and the many options they have regarding their pregnancy, abortion included.