Rethinking the abortion issue: The problem of normative femininity and hermeneutical injustice

Millicent Churcher
University of Sydney
To date the wealth of literature on abortion has been dedicated to resolving the question of its legal and moral permissibility in relation to the fetus and pregnant woman as subjects of moral standing. This has created a dichotomised way of talking about abortion chiefly in terms of conflicting rights; as a „wrongful‟ versus „legitimate‟ form of killing. The tension between this individualistic rights-based discourse and the „ethic of care‟ to which women are often expected to conform in their moral deliberations gives rise to a stigmatising picture of a woman who aborts as „callous‟ or „selfish.‟ Males who share in abortion decisions are rarely subject to the same type of criticism. In this paper I aim to conceptualise the impact of normative femininity and social judgement on women‟s capacity for moral self-determination in abortion contexts within the framework of an injustice. I will do so by examining women‟s discursive participation with respect to abortion, and by analysing the impact that abortion stigma has on women‟s moral agency and lived experience. This will enable me to demonstrate how women may be uniquely subject to a hermeneutical injustice, which in abortion contexts gives way to a phenomenological injustice
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