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Abortion, Pregnancy Losses and the Afterlife of Bodies, Bonds and Memories in Italy

Claudia Mattalucci (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy)

Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality

ISBN: 978-1-80071-439-7, eISBN: 978-1-80071-438-0

Publication date: 7 April 2022


Starting from an event occurring in 2018, I consider burials of abortive remains as a battleground for reproductive governances. Public debate on pregnancy loss is often intertwined with the abortion debate. In Italy this association caused a considerable delay in implementing practices recommended by international guidelines on pregnancy loss. In this essay, I analyse burial regulations and the ways in which they are enforced asking what is at stake when the State, the regions, the Catholic Church, healthcare and cemetery professionals and women undergoing a termination or a pregnancy loss decide what to do with bodily remains. What is the meaning of these peculiar dead bodies? How are they publicly named? What are the effects of the actions performed on fetal remains over the lived experiences of women and couples with different reproductive histories? Who has the right to make decisions over these peculiar bodies and relationships?

Based on a long-term ethnography on abortion and pregnancy loss in Italy, I explore the inherent complexity of these questions, arguing that burial practices conflict with abortion rights when they signify the body unequivocally, separating it from social and intimate relationships, fixing its identity and determining the conditions for its recognition. Human flesh, sociologically understood (Memmi, 2014), is both material and symbolic: a fluctuating reality that takes on different meanings and affects over time within relationships.



Mattalucci, C. (2022), "Abortion, Pregnancy Losses and the Afterlife of Bodies, Bonds and Memories in Italy", Guerzoni, C.S. and Mattalucci, C. (Ed.) Reproductive Governance and Bodily Materiality (Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 75-92.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Claudia Mattalucci. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited