Procreation Stories: Reproduction, Nurturance, and Procreation in Life Narratives of Abortion Act...

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Procreation Stories: Reproduction, Nurturance, and Procreation in Life Narratives of Abortion Activists by Mind Map: Procreation Stories: Reproduction, Nurturance, and Procreation in Life Narratives of Abortion Activists

1. Ginsberg

1.1. When pro-life forces failed to close the clinic through conventional political tactics, they shifted their strategy. They currently are engaged in a battle for the clinic's clientele. Competition is focused increasingly on winning the minds, bodies, and power to define the women who might choose to violate a basic cultural script - the dominant American procreation story - in which pregnancy necessarily results in childbirth and motherhood, preferably within marriage (p. 236).

1.1.1. The local controversy over the clinic opening in Fargo revealed at close range how the struggle over abortion rights has become a contested domain for control over the constellation of meanings attached to reproduction in America (p. 236)

1.2. In the course of fieldwork, it became clear to me that this conflict does not indicate two fixed and irreconcilable positions. Rather, the social movements organized around abortion provide arenas for innovation where cultural and social definitions of gender are in the process of material and semiotic reorganization (p. 236)

1.3. In each movement, a particular understanding of reproduction is demonstrated through abortion activism. This was especially apparent in life stories - narratively shaped fragments of more comprehensive life histories - I collected with female abortion activists (p. 236)

1.4. Procreation stories, reveal the way in which women use their activism to frame and interpret their experiences - both historical and biographical. The stories create provisional solutions to disruptions in a coherent cultural model for the place of reproduction and motherhood in the female life course in contemporary America. They illuminate how those dimensions of experience considered "private" in American culture intersect with particular social and historical conditions that distinguish the memberships of each group (p. 236)

1.4.1. Collected 21 life stories from right-to-life activists (p. 236)

1.4.2. Collected 14 life stories from pro-choice activists P. 236)

1.4.3. Life stories collected from abortion activists in Fargo, in almost all cases, pro-choice and pro-life alike, women described a coming to consciousness regarding abortion in relation to some critical realignment of personal and social identity, usually related to reproduction (p. 237).

1.4.4. It seems appropriate to use life stories as texts in which abortion is a key symbol around which activists are interpreting and reorienting their lives. Suggests a model for understanding how female social activism in the American context operates to mediate the construction of self and gender with larger social, political, and cultural processes (p. 236).

1.4.5. Life stories can be seen as the effort of individuals to create continuity between subjective and social experience, the past and current action and belief (p. 237).

1.4.6. Activists create symbolic continuity between discontinuous transitions in the female life cycle, particularly between motherhood and wage work, that, for larger reasons, are particularly problematic for specific cohorts in ways that mark them as "generations." In the procreation stories, abortion not only provides a framework for organizing "disorderly" life transitions and extending a newly articulated sense of self in both space and time, it also provides narrators a means of symbolically controlling their opposition. The narratives show how these activists require the "other" in order to exist (p. 246).

1.5. Conclusions are confirmed in other qualitative studies of abortion activists (for example, Luker 1984), which also find abortion activism linked to a more general integrative process (p. 236)

1.6. The connections drawn between abortion activism and other social issues are diverse (p. 237).

1.7. Trying to understand the differences between the women on opposite sides of the issue - noticed generational distinction (p. 237).

1.8. Not arguing that all abortion activists fall neatly into one group or another (p. 237).

1.9. Would argue that this generational shift might be particularly relevant in conflicts tied so closely to life cycle events. In the narratives, all the women are struggling to come to terms with problematic life-cycle transitions, but in each group, the way they experience those as problematic is associated with very particular historical situations. Abortion activism seems to mediate between these two domains, as a frame for action and interpretation of the self in relation to the world. For most of these women, their procreation stories create harmonious narrative out of the dissonance of history, both personal and generational (p. 237).

1.9.1. The appearance of a generational shift is intended less as an explanation and more as a reminder of the importance of temporal factors in the dialectics of social movements. Social activists may hold different positions due not only to social and ideological differences. Differing views may also be produced by historical changes, which include their experience of the opposition at different points over the life course (p. 237)

1.10. To use Mannheim's suggestion, one must consider the intersection of two unfolding processes in order to understand what attracts women to opposing movements in the abortion controversy (p. 238)

1.10.1. One is the "biological factors," the trajectory of a woman's sexual and reproductive experiences over her life course and her interpretation of those events (p. 238).

1.10.2. The second is the historical moment shaping the culture when these key transitional points occur. It is this moment of "fresh contact" that creates the conditions of "a changed relationship" and a "novel approach" to the culture that ensures its continual reorganization. Such "fresh contact" is manifest in the selfdefinition and social actions of women engaged in the abortion controversy (p. 238).

1.10.3. When the interpretation of a particular life event - abortion or more generally the transition to motherhood, for example - becomes the object of political struggle, it indicates a larger disruption occurring in the social order as well. What emerges in the biographical narratives of these women is an apparent dissonance between cultural codes, social process, and individual transformation in the life course (p. 238).

1.10.4. Arguing that these transitions constitute life crises for women at this moment in American history because of the gap between experiences of discontinuous changes in their own biographies and the available cultural models for marking them, both cognitively and socially (p. 238).

1.11. This paper examines how American concepts of gender are being redefined by female activists in life story narratives and collective movements (p. 243).

1.12. The analysis is specific to the abortion controversy as it developed in one locale, it is part of two interrelated areas of research: the cultural and social meanings of gender, reproduction, and sexuality; and arenas of conflict in contemporary American culture (p. 243)

1.13. Both pro-life and pro-choice women are trying, in their activism and procreation stories, to "naturalize" their proposed solutions to the problems created by the differential consequences of biological reproduction for men and women in American culture (p. 245).

1.14. Grassroots pro-life and pro-choice women alike envision their work as a full-scale social crusade to enhance rather than diminish women's position in American culture. While their solutions differ, both sides share a critique of a society that increasingly stresses materialism and self-enhancement while denying the value of dependents and those who care for them (p. 246)

2. Theories

2.1. Bertaux and Kohli

2.1.1. In a 1984 review article on life histories in the Annual Review of Sociology, Daniel use the term "life story" to distinguish such oral autobiographical fragments from more comprehensive, fully developed narrative texts that would more properly be called life histories (p. 236)

2.2. Callahan and Callahan

2.2.1. The general debate has seen an effort, on all sides, to make abortion fit into some overall coherent scheme of values, one that can combine personal convictions and consistency with more broadly held social values. Abortion poses a supreme test in trying to achieve that coherence. It stands at the juncture of a number of value systems, which continually joust with each other for dominance, but none of which by itself can do full justice to all the values that, with varying degrees of insistence and historical rootedness, clamor for attention and respect (p. 236).

2.3. Granberg

2.3.1. The core of membership on both sides is primarily white, middle class and female (p. 237).

2.4. Mannheim

2.4.1. The importance of this nexus between the individual life cycle and rapidly changing historical conditions in understanding generational shifts in the formation of political consciousness and social movements: in the case of generations, the "fresh contact"with the social and cultural heritage is determined not by mere social change but by fundamental biological factors. We can accordingly differentiate between two types of "fresh contact": one based on a shift in social relations, and the other in vital factors. The sociological problem of generations begins at that point where the sociological relevance of these biological factors is discovered (p. 238)

2.5. Weiner

2.5.1. All societies make commitments to the reproduction of their most valued resources, i.e. resources that encompass human reproduction as well as the regeneration of social, material, and cosmological phenomena. In our Western tradition, however, the cyclical process of the regeneration of elements is not of central concern. Even the value of biological reproduction remains a secondary order of events in terms of power and immortality achieved through male domains. Yet in other societies, reproduction, in its most inclusive form, may be a basic principle through which other major societal structures are linked (p. 245).

2.6. Gordon

2.6.1. Contemporary feminism, like feminism a century ago, contains an ambivalence between individualism and its critique. [Right-to-lifers] fear a completely individualized society with all services based on cash nexus relationships, without the influence of nurturing women counteracting the completely egoistic principles of the economy, and without any forms in which children can learn about lasting human commitments to other people. Many feminists have the same fear (p. 246).

3. The Facts

3.1. Fargo Woman's Health Center, Fargo, North Dakota

3.1.1. The first free-standing facility in the state to publicly offer abortions opened in 1981 (P. 235)

3.2. Pro Life Groups

3.2.1. Believed that the availability of abortion in their own community represented the intrusion of secularism, narcissism, materialism, and anomie, and the reshaping of women into structural men (p. 235).

3.2.2. Devout Catholics became ardent feminists; middle-class, college-educated, liberal Protestants became staunch pro-lifers (p. 237).

3.2.3. The right-to-life women cluster was in two groups (p. 237). Those born in the 1920s were most active in the pro-life working in the early 1970s (p. 237). Shirley, a 63-year-old widow, part-time nurse, mother of six, and a well-known member of Fargo's comfortable middle class (p. 242). Helen, also drew cross-generational connections through her right-to-life commitment (p 242). The second group, those most active, born in the 1950s, was made up of women who had worked prior to having children and left wage labor when they became mothers (p. 237). This transition occurred in the late 1970s or even more recently, a period when feminism was on the wane as an active social movement and pro-life and anti-ERA activity were on the rise. This latter group claims to have been or even be feminist in many respects (that is, on issues such as comparable worth) (p. 237) Many describe their commitment to the right-to-life movement as a kind of conversion; it occurs most frequently around the birth of a first or second child when many women of this group decided to move out of the paid work force to stay home and raise children (p. 237). Sally Nordsen is part of a cohort of women born between 1952-62 who make up the majority and most dedicated members of Fargo's antiabortion activists (p. 242) Sally's colleague, Roberta makes the case succinctly (p. 243).

3.2.4. For most right-to-lifers, abortion is not simply the termination of an individual potential life, or even that act multiplied a million-fold. It represents an active denial of the reproductive consequences of sex and a rejection of female nurturance, and thus sets forth the possibility of women structurally becoming men. This prospect threatens the union of opposites on which the continuity of the social whole is presumed to rest (p. 244).

3.3. Pro Choice Groups

3.3.1. Reacted to right-to-life protesters as the forces of narrow-minded intolerance who would deny women access to a choice that is seen as fundamental to women's freedom and ability to overcome sexual discrimination (p. 235).

3.3.2. The pro-choice activists cluster in a group born in the 1940s - generally meant marriage and children - in the late 1960s and early 1970s (p. 237).

3.3.3. Life stories indicate that with the social movements of that period, particularly the second wave of feminism, was a central experience for nearly all of them. Described their encounter with these movements as a kind of awakening or passage from a world defined by motherhood into one seen as filled with broader possibilities. For most of these women, feminism offered new sources with which to understand and frame thier lives; it provided an analysis, a community of others, and a means for engaging social change that legitimated their own experiences (p. 237). The pro-choice narratives were drawn from women activists who organized to defend the Fargo abortion clinic; most were born between 1942-52. They represent a range of backgrounds and all were influenced as young adults by the social unrest of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and by the women's movement in particular (p. 239). A central figure of the current controversy in Fargo is Kay Bellevue, an abortion rights activist since 1972 (p. 239). Janice Sundstrom, like most of the pro-choice activists in Fargo, frames her story on mphasizing her differentiation from, rather than integration with, her childhood milieu (p. 241)

3.3.4. Strong commitment to pro-choice activism was connected to specific life-cycle events, generally having to do with experiences and choices around sexuality, pregnancy, and childbearing, including the choice not to have children (p. 239).

3.4. Both Pro Choice/Pro Life Groups

3.4.1. The core of membership on both sides is primarily white, middle class and female (p. 237).

3.4.2. There are approximately 1000 attentially active supporters and hard core of 10 to 20 activists (p. 235).

3.4.3. Narratives reveal how the embracing of a prolife or pro-choice position emerges specifically out of a confluence of reproductive and generational experiences (p. 237). These orientations provide a useful framework for interpreting the narratives of abortion activists in relation to the social movements that engage them. The battles they fight are loci for potential cultural and social transformation; in life stories, change is incorporated, ordered, and assigned meaning by and for the individual. This process is central to the "changed relationships" of many women to American culture that have generated struggles over conflicting views of the interpretation of gender in the last two decades (p. 238).

3.4.4. Voluntary work for a "cause" was an acceptable and satisfying way of managing to balance the pleasures and duties of motherhood with the structural isolation of that work as it is organized in America (p. 240). La Leche League, for example, is a group where one stands an equal chance of running into a pro-life or pro-choice woman (p. 240).