Uterus Strike

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This is a translation of an article by Beatriz Preciado, originally published in Público on 29th January 2013, regarding the Partido Popular’s anti-abortion legislation.

ASLocked within individualistic neoliberal fiction, we live with the naive sensation that our body belongs to us, that it is our most intimate property. However, the management of the greater part of our organs is under the aegis of various governmental and economic entities. Of all the bodily organs, it has been undoubtedly the uterus that has been the object of the greatest political and economic expropriation. As a cavity that potentially allows for gestation,the uterus is not a private organ, but a biopolitical space of exception, to which the norms that regulate the rest of our anatomical cavities do not apply. As a space of exception, the uterus resembles the refugee camp or the prison more than it does the liver or the lung.

The body of women contains within it a public space, whose jurisdiction is fought over not only by religious and political powers, but also medical, pharmaceutical and agri-food industries.Hence, as historian Joan Scott points out, women have spent a long time in a situation of “paradoxical citizenship”: if as human bodies they belong to the democratic community of free citizens, as bodies with potentially gestating uteruses, they lose their autonomy and become objects of intense surveillance and political control. Every woman carries within her a laboratory of the Nation-State upon whose management depends the purity of the national ethnos. For the past forty years, feminism has carried out, in the West, a process of decolonisation of the uterus. But the contemporary situation in Spain shows us that not only is this process unfinished, but it is fragile and can be easily revoked.

This 20th of December past, Mariano Rajoy’s government in Spain approved the draft for the new abortion law which will be, along with the Irish law, the most restrictive in the whole of Europe. The new law of “Protection of the Life of the Conceived and of the Rights of the Pregnant Woman” contemplates solely two grounds for legal abortion: risk of physical or mental health to the mother (up to 22 weks) or rape (up to 12 weeks). Moreover, the risk to the mother must be validated by an independent doctor and and independent psychiatrist and it must be the object of a collective process of deliberation. The draft has provoked not only the outrage of left and feminist groups, but also the collective opposition of psychiatrists who refuse to participate in this process of surveillance and pathologisation of pregnant women which restricts their right to decide for themselves.

How can this initiative of Rajoy’s government be explained? Policies governing the uterus, as with censorship or restriction to freedom of assembly, are a good detector of nationalistic and totalitarian inclinations. In the context of an economic and political crisis of the Spanish State, in light of the reorganisation of its territory and its national “anatomy” (consider Catalonia’s open process of secession but also the current discredit of the monarchy and the corruption of ruling elites), the government is seeking to recover the uterus as a biopolitical space in which national sovereignty can be manufactured once again. They dream that  by possessing the uterus they will be able to maintain the old borders of the Nation-State that are in decomposition. This draft law is also a response to the legalisation of homosexual marriage that took place during the rule of the preceding socialist government and which, despite the repeated efforts of the PP, the Constitutional Tribunal has refused to repeal. Faced with this calling into question of the model of the heterosexual family, the Rajoy government, which is close to the fundamentalist group Opus Dei, now seeks to occupy the female body as the latest place in which not only is national reproduction at stake, but also masculine hegemony.

If biopolitical history could be narrated cinematographically we would say that the film being prepared for us by the PP is a fevered porno-gore flick in which the president Rajoy and his justice minister Ruiz Gallardón plant a Spanish flag in each and every one of the uteruses of the Nation-State. This is the message that the government of Rajoy is sending to every woman in the country: your uterus is territory of the Spanish State, the preserve and ferment of National-Catholic sovereignty. You only exist as Mother. Open your legs, become soil for insemination, reproduce Spain. If the law that the PP seeks to implement were to take effect, Spanish women would wake up with the Cabinet of Ministers and the Bishop’s Conference inside their endometria

As a body born with a uterus, I close my legs to National Catholicism. I say to Rajoy and to Rouco Varela that they will not set foot in my uterus: I have not gestated, nor will I ever gestate in the service of Spanish nationalist politics. From this modest tribune, I invite every body to go on uterus strike. Let us affirm ourselves as total citizens, not as reproductive uteruses. Not only through abstinence and homosexuality, but also through masturbation, sodomy, fetishism, coprophagy, zoophilia…and abortion. Let us not allow a single drop of National-Catholic sperm to penetrate our uteruses. Let us refuse to gestate for the accounts of the Partido Popular, or the parishes of the Bishops’ Conference. Let us carry out this strike as we would the most matriotic of acts: to put an end to the fiction of the nation and to begin to imagine a community of life post-nation-State, that does not have as its condition of possibility violence and the expropriation of the uterus.