The biomedicalisation of illegal abortion: the double life of misoprostol in Brazil

A biomedicalização do aborto ilegal: a vida dupla do misoprostol no Brasil

Silvia De Zordo About the author

Abstract

This paper examines the double life of misoprostol in Brazil, where it is illegally used by women as an abortifacient and legally used in obstetric hospital wards. Based on my doctoral and post-doctoral anthropological research on contraception and abortion in Salvador, Bahia, this paper initially traces the “conversion” of misoprostol from a drug to treat ulcers to a self-administered abortifacient in Latin America, and its later conversion to aneclectic global obstetric tool. It then shows how, while reducing maternal mortality, its use as an illegal abortifacient has reinforced the double reproductive citizenship regime existing in countries with restrictive abortion laws and poor post-abortion care services, where poor women using it illegally are stigmatised, discriminated against and exposed to potentially severe health risks.

illegal abortion; misoprostol; reproductive health; biomedicalisation; Brazil

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