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Matters of Choice

Puerto Rican Women's Struggle for Reproductive Freedom

Iris Lopez

Publication Year: 2008

In Matters of Choice, Iris Lopez presents a comprehensive analysis of the dichotomous views that have portrayed sterilization either as part of a coercive program of population control or as a means of voluntary, even liberating, fertility control by individual women. Drawing upon her twenty-five years of research on sterilized Puerto Rican women from five different families in Brooklyn, Lopez untangles the interplay between how women make fertility decisions and their social, economic, cultural, and historical constraints.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In a study that spans twenty-five years, it is difficult to acknowledge the magnitude of love, support, and ideas I have received from others. Foremost, I want to thank my mother, father, sisters, brother, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews, and my husband for their unfailing love and support. I dedicate this book to all of you. I also want to thank David’s family for their love and support. My fam-...

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pp. ix-xxv

...“My first pregnancy was a surprise.” Nancy, a thirty-one-year-old Puerto Rican woman in New York, leaned forward and spoke with a sense of urgency. “I was only seventeen years old at the time. I wasn’t taking the pill on a regular basis. I didn’t feel good taking the pill. I also tried the coil, but it got to the point where I could hardly walk from the pain and the doctor took it out. I tried ...

Part I : The Globalization of Sterilization

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Chapter 1: The Birth Control Movement in Puerto Rico

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pp. 3-19

After the Spanish American War in 1898, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines became colonies of the United States. The U.S. rulers were enthralled by the ideology of Manifest Destiny, which promoted American expansion into the lands occupied by nonwhite peoples in the name of a “civilizing” mission. In 1899, one year after the United States took possession of Puerto Rico, neo-...

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Chapter 2: Gender Awareness across Generations

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pp. 20-42

The colonial history of Puerto Rico and the history of birth control on the island have influenced the lives of three generations of women in my study. Despite individual variations, each generation shares certain common orientations that stem from the intersection of their gender, race, age, and class, and are influenced by the era in which they grew up, as well as the sociopo-...

Part II: Cultural Continuities and Urban Change

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Chapter 3: The Velez Family: Poverty, the Cancer Scare , and Hysterectomies

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pp. 45-60

On a warm summer night in 1981 I walked four long blocks to where Evelyn lives. I was able to walk right into the tenement because of a broken front door. I found the family eating spaghetti and meatballs. Do

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Chapter 4: The Robles Family: Social Change and Gender Struggle

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pp. 61-77

Early one morning I set out to find do

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Chapter 5: The Gomez Family: Under the Knife Again— Reversing la Operación

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pp. 78-101

The Gomez family is headed by doña Margo and includes her daughters Lourdes and Gladys, and Lourdes’s children, Lizzie, Luisito, and Roberto. This family differs from the Robles and Velez families in that Lourdes underwent a reversal sterilization. Her traumatic experiences with this surgery resonate with the lives of many poor women that have unsuccessfully attempted to have a child after ...

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Chapter 6: The Morales and Rivera Families: Tough Love and Sterile Choices

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pp. 102-122

The story of the Morales family is a remarkable and unusual one. In fact, in all the years I have been doing research, this is the only time I have come across such a situation. Nilda and her husband, Enrique, with the aid of her parents, do

Part III: Reproductive Rights and an Integral Model of Reproductive Freedom

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Chapter 7: Ideologies and Inequities in the Health Care System

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pp. 125-141

Each semester I give a lecture to my undergraduate classes on sterilization and Puerto Rican women in New York City. And each semester, without fail, several Latina students in my classes mention that they are sterilized. I explore this topic gingerly with them in order to find out the circumstances under which they were sterilized and to further educate them. One of the tools I use is the ...

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Chapter 8: Toward an Integral Model of Reproductive Freedom

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pp. 142-156

A discussion of the ideology of choice is fundamental to any analysis of sterilization. As I noted in the introduction, the ideology of choice is the basis of the fundamental ideal underpinning American society: that we live in a free society, that as individuals we have an infinite number of options from which to choose, and that because all individuals are presumed to be created equally, ...

Appendix: Genealogical Charts

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pp. 157-162


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pp. 163-166


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pp. 167-178


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pp. 179-184

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About the Author

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p. 185-185

Iris Lopez is an engaged urban anthropologist who has worked extensively with Latino communities in New York City. Her work focuses on gender, immigration, and reproductive rights. She is the director of Latin American and Latino Studies and the former director of Women’s Studies at City College ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546247
E-ISBN-10: 0813546249
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813543727
Print-ISBN-10: 081354372X

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2008