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Women's reproductive lives as a symbolic resource in Central and Eastern Europe

Hockey, Jenny; Alsop, Rachel


Jenny Hockey

Rachel Alsop


When Communism collapsed in Central and Eastern Europe women seemed to lose the control they had gained over their reproductive lives. Abortion rights became more limited as did access to childcare and maternity benefits. The authors argue that this picture conceals two key points. First, the effects of both Communism and post-Communism for women's reproductive lives need to be understood as byproducts of state initiatives geared towards the fulfilment of quite different political goals - and not attempts to intervene in women's health and well-being per se. Second, these effects are very varied and cannot be attributed to a single cause. 'Central and Eastern Europe' comprises a whole range of political, ethnic and religious groupings, the result being that women's reproductive lives have been shaped within a diversity of political processes. Some women have faced pressures from the state to reproduce, some have lost the conditions necessary for them to continue paid work after childbirth, others have lost abortion rights. To understand these very different outcomes of post-Communism, this article looks beyond women's issues per se to unravel their role as symbolic resources which have been drawn upon in power struggles taking place in political arenas which exclude the majority of women. This argument is elaborated through empirical evidence from Poland, Serbia and East Germany.


Hockey, J., & Alsop, R. (2001). Women's reproductive lives as a symbolic resource in Central and Eastern Europe. European Journal of Women's Studies, 8(4), 454-471.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 25, 2016
Publication Date 2001-11
Print ISSN 1350-5068
Electronic ISSN 1461-7420
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 4
Pages 454-471
Keywords Abortion; Gender; Post-Communism; Reproductive health
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