The Persistence of Induced Abortion in Cuba: Exploring the Notion of an 'Abortion Culture'

Bélanger, D., & Flynn, A. (2009). The persistence of induced abortion in Cuba: Exploring the notion of an 'abortion culture.'. Studies in Family Planning, 40(1), 13-26.

Cuba’s annual induced abortion rate persistently ranks among the highest in the world, and abortion plays a prominent role in Cuban fertility regulation despite widespread contraceptive prevalence and state promotion of modern contraceptives. We explore this phenomenon using the concept of an “abortion culture,” typically used in reference to Soviet and post-Soviet countries. We synthesize existing literature to provide a historical account of abortion and contraception in Cuba. We also provide a qualitative analysis of abortion and contraceptive use based on in-depth interviews conducted in 2005 in Havana with 24 women who have had an abortion and 10 men whose partners have had an abortion. Information gained from a focus-group discussion with medical professionals also informed the study. Our four principal findings are: (a) longstanding awareness of abortion, (b) the view of abortion as a personal decision, (c) the influence of economic constraints on the decision to induce an abortion, and (d) general skepticism toward contraceptives. We discuss our results on abortion in Cuba in relation to the notion of social diffusion, an approach commonly used to explain the spread of fertility control throughout a population.

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