Alejandra Elizabeth Marks
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationTulane U.
Grant numberGr. 10134
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleMarks, Alejandra (Tulane U.) "When Abortion Pills Travel: Self-Managed Abortion in Havana and Bahia"
Pharmaceuticals have been theorized as symbolically “potent” objects (Martin 2006) whose capacity to affect consumers extends well beyond their immediate chemical effects. This research investigates how the drug misoprostol, originally developed as a treatment for gastric ulcers, is changing the meaning of abortion by allowing women to terminate unwanted pregnancies privately. Emerging first as an informal abortion method in the 1990s in Brazil, where abortion is penalized, the drug first entered clinical life in Latin America as an abortifacient when it was officially adopted for this purpose in Cuba in 1997. Today, the different modes through which misoprostol is distributed in the two countries cast abortion as a practice that sits uneasily between crime and care, between marginal practice and sanctioned procedure. I will conduct six months of fieldwork in Havana and six months in Salvador da Bahia to trace the ways in which the misoprostol is reshaping notions of reproductive care. By examining the imaginative, affective, and embodied experiences of women as they turn to either to clinicians or unlicensed sellers to obtain misoprostol, I seek to understand how the experience and meaning of abortion – increasingly carried out in the private sphere – is shifting.