In sickness and in health. Expert discussions on abortion indications, risks and patient-doctor relationships in post-war Poland

This article analyses expert debates relating to abortion in Poland between 1956 and 1993, a period when the procedure was legal and accessible. Through the pages of the primary Polish journal for gynecology and obstetrics, Ginekologia Polska, I trace continuities and ruptures around three major intersecting themes: the procedure’s indications, its (dis)connection to health, and the patient-doctor relationship. The journal became a forum showcasing interpretative tensions over indications for abortion and the malleability of the categories “therapeutic” and “social”. In addition to these tensions, abortion was represented throughout this period as a potentially risky surgery, although this was initially nuanced with parallel representations of legal abortion combating maternal mortality. During the 1970s, abortion began to be linked to infertility, often in simplistic cause-and-effect terms. Simultaneously, opposition to abortion based on the idea of defense of the nation and fetal “life”, surfaced in expert discourse.
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