Dr. Elizabeth O’Brien will deliver a talk based on her book, Surgery and Salvation: The Roots of Reproductive Injustice in Mexico, 1770–1940.  

Talk Summary: Contraception and childbearing are the subject of intense politicization. Religious, medical, and state-based authorities approach people’s reproductive bodies as sites of surveillance, criminalization, punishment, and political jockeying, while healthcare access can often become jeopardized by political prerogatives. Using theological, and state-based sources, this talk explores the historical politics of childbearing in Mexico, particularly through the lens of surgical procedures that were underpinned by metaphysical rationales— those that aimed to defend unborn life, correct women’s alleged biological deficiencies, or sterilize Indigenous, African-descendent, and poor women in Mexico City. The talk connects the history of reproductive medicine to present-day concerns about obstetric violence, non-consensual sterilization, and the right to access pregnancy termination services, while celebrating Mexican activists’ contribution to the global Reproductive Justice movement.