From Reproductive Rights to Responsibilization: Fashioning Liberal Subjects in Mexico City’s New Public Sector Abortion Program

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Building on medical anthropology literature that analyzes doctor–patient interactions as a charged site for the production of political subjectivities, I demonstrate how a central feature of Mexico City’s new public sector abortion program involves “responsibilization.” In accordance with entrenched Ministry of Health objectives, providers transmit a suite of values about personal responsibility and self-regulation through the use of birth control, hinging abortion rights to responsible reproductive subjectivity. Based on 18 months of ethnographic research across program clinics, including 75 interviews with patients and providers, I show how interrupción legal del embarazo protocols fashion “responsibilized” liberal subjects. I argue that the recent granting of abortion rights in Mexico City—ostensibly a new moment for the construction of women’s citizenship—instead reflects and extends long-standing state agendas of “reproductive governance.” My analysis of reproductive rights as the newest framing of ongoing population policies in Mexico adds to a critical anthropology of human rights and of liberal projects of governance.

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