The Framing of Abortion in the Czech Republic: How the Continuity of Discourse Prevents Institutional Change
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Abortion was first legalised in Czechoslovakia at a relatively early date – in 1957. However, unlike in Western Europe, this did not occur as a result of pressure from civil society and the feminist movement. While attempting to explain the continuity and change of abortion institutions in the former Czechoslovakia /Czech Republic, the article focuses on the framing of the debates that preceded the changes in abortion legislation in the Czech Republic since the 1950s. Discourse analysis of media and expert articles, parliamentary debates, and other documents shows that abortion in the Czech Republic was framed as a medical issue since the 1950s, not an issue of women’s rights or bodily citizenship. Gynaecologists were the most important actors in the abortion debates. The effect of this medicalised discourse of abortion was the construction of a specific knowledge on abortion. In spite of existing alternative discourses, this original discourse now hinders the possibility of reframing abortion in terms of women’s reproductive rights and this is reflected in the status quo of the abortion legislation. The continuity of dominant discourse therefore reflects and reinforces the path-dependency of the institutions.
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