In Nicaragua and Bolivia, large women’s movements grew out of women’s participation in opposition to authoritarian governments in the late 70s and early 80s. In each of these countries, the women’s movements condemned the use of birth control in the immediate aftermath of the restoration of democracy. Despite the position taken by the women’s movements, a clear demand for family planning services existed in each of these countries during this time period, as demonstrated by the extremely high incidences of induced abortion and abortion related fatalities in each of these countries. However, by the mid 80s, the Nicaraguan women’s movement had made family planning, including the decriminalization of abortion, an important part of its platform, while Bolivia’s women’s movement maintained its previous position.
The purpose of this presentation is to explore why these two women’s movements took such drastically different positions on family planning. I begin by tracing the history of each women’s movement and contextualizing them, and their reproductive agendas, in terms of the political situation at the time. I then review the explanations offered by Maxine Molyneux and Gratzia Villaroel Smeall as to why Nicaragua’s women’s movement may have pushed for access to birth control and the decriminalization of abortion while Bolivia’s did not. In the end I conclude that the effects of neoliberal restructuring on the newly re-democratized Bolivia, specifically the proliferation of NGOs that stepped in to provide the social services that were once provided by the now retracting state apparatus, created an institutional barrier between working class women activists and middle class women’s organizations. This prevented the formation of the coalition between working class and middle class women that created the reproductive rights agenda of the Nicaraguan women’s movement, and led to the more conservative position of the Bolivian women’s movement.
Caitlyn Dye, ’11
Majors: Spanish, Individualized Studies, Latin American Studies
Sponsor: Carol Lacy-Salazar