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Reviewed by:
  • Salud reproductiva, legislación y opciones de maternidad ed. by María Isabel Núñez Paz
  • Arleen Salles (bio)
Salud reproductiva, legislación y opciones de maternidad. Edited by María Isabel Núñez Paz. Coordinated by Susana Carro Fernández and María Marta González Tascón. Oviedo, ES: Grupo Demeter, 2013.

Salud reproductiva, legislación y opciones de maternidad (Reproductive health, legislation and motherhood options) brings together articles by fourteen Spanish scholars of law, philosophy, psychology, bioethics, and aesthetics that focus on a central and pressing issue within feminist thought: traditional conceptions of motherhood and how they shape people’s understanding of reproduction, reproductive choices, and women’s agency. The volume includes essays with diverse theoretical and methodological approaches. The organizing thesis is that a fruitful investigation of the issues surrounding reproduction and particularly abortion must challenge the fixed and mistaken set of understandings that have historically been taken for granted.

Most of the essays are shaped by a concrete issue: Spain’s conservative Popular Party’s campaign promise to tighten the country’s liberal abortion law, Ley Orgánica 2/2010, that allows abortion on demand up to the fourteenth week of pregnancy and up to twenty-two weeks when the woman’s health is at risk or the fetus has serious problems. The bill proposed by the Popular Party would have made abortion generally illegal except in the case of rape of the woman or when her physical and mental health was at risk. It is worth noting that, since these essays were written, the proposed bill was scrapped. However, the government was successful in reforming the existing law so that sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds will need their parent’s permission to have an abortion. [End Page 248]

It is against this background that the book must be understood. Although not all the articles focus specifically on abortion, there is a sense of urgency in many of them that can be easily linked to the recognition that women’s capacity to make decisions is being threatened. As María Isabel Núñez Paz, the general editor of the volume, notes, “Even if rights are formally recognized, history shows how easy it is to go back and lose those hardly earned achievements” (27). Indeed, throughout the book, the contributors suggest that the plight of women even today can be explained by the prevalence of traditional conceptions of female agency and motherhood.

The book starts with a short piece by Núñez Paz. She presents some general reflections on the troubled relation of women to the normative views and policies regarding the role of motherhood and provides context for the topics taken up in the book. The introduction by Susana Carro Fernández, one of the coordinators, further sets the stage for the chapters that follow. Following the introduction are essays covering abortion, sexual education, assisted reproductive technologies, and one that focuses on art narratives on motherhood and mothering.

In her useful chapter on abortion, Núñez Paz focuses on the ideas that underlie the proposed reform to Ley Orgánica 2/2010. Drawing on the legal history of abortion over twenty-five centuries, she notes that the legal regulation of women’s behavior has been typically informed by a particular set of problematic ideas, what she calls “three denials” that need to be challenged. They are specifically the denial and undervaluing of emotions, the denial of the mental competence of women and of their capacity to make decisions (the author points out that, in a perverse twist, even when women have historically been taken to be incompetent to make decisions, they are considered legally responsible for those decisions), and finally, the denial of women’s right to have or share the patrimony men have typically enjoyed. Núñez Paz argues that it is not possible to understand fully the highly contested nature of the proposed reforms to Ley Organica 2/2010 without taking into account the history of gender differences that supports it.

The next two articles on abortion highlight the issues surrounding the legal appropriateness and the capacity of pregnant minors to consent to an abortion. For Miguel Angel Núñez Paz...


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pp. 248-251
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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