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Reproduction and the making of politics in the 'New Poland': gender, nation and democracy in the Polish abortion debate

By Anne-Marie Caroline Kramer


Across East Central Europe, postcommunist transformation is being effected through the discourses of gender. It is in this context that debate around abortion has surfaced repeatedly in Poland. This is an empirical case study of Polish postcommunist transformation centred on gender and in particular, on abortion debate. It focuses on the connection between discourses of Polish nationhood, democracy and gender, contributing to the fields of gender and postcommunism, gender and nation, and comparative reproductive politics.\ud \ud Using a discourse analysis methodology, this thesis analyses Polish abortion debate centred around the 1996 liberalisation of abortion amendment, a ‘moment’ previously neglected in scholarly research. It considers three sites at which abortion debate surfaces, Parliament, press reportage and opinion polls, and analyses how each constructs its role as mechanism and instrument of democracy through its participation in abortion debate.\ud \ud Abortion is a symbolic issue used to create, sustain and contest political identities, a site through which nationalist pasts and futures are imagined, and through which democratic political projects are articulated. Thus abortion is a key symbolic stand-in issue that represents competing democratic and nation-building projects, a site where politics is ‘made’: abortion thus comes to emblematise psotcommunist Polish transformation.\ud \ud Through their participation in Polish abortion debate, Sejm, media and opinion polls legitimate their claims to be primary definers of the ‘new’ Poland, claiming key rolls as mediators between ‘politics’ and the ‘people’. Gender is crucial to the nation-building projects constructed through abortion at all three sites, however this dimension is often suppressed.\ud \ud The thesis further argues that there are grounds for a limited and partial feminist recuperation of the liberalisation ‘moment’. However, it concludes, whilst abortion is fundamentally about women’s equal citizenship rights, having very real and material consequences for Polish women, debate around the liberalisation amendment does not principally revolve around gender

Topics: HQ, DK
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