Soc Sci Med. 1997 Jun; 44(12): 1833-45.
Women's hidden transcripts about abortion in Brazil.
Harvard University Medical School, Department of Social Medicine, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
Two folk medical conditions, "delayed" (atrasada) and "suspended" (suspendida) menstruation, are described as perceived by poor Brazilian women in Northeast Brazil. Culturally prescribed methods to "regulate" these conditions and provoke menstrual bleeding are also described, including ingesting herbal remedies, patent drugs, and modern pharmaceuticals. The ingestion of such self-administered remedies is facilitated by the cognitive ambiguity, euphemisms, folklore, etc., which surround conception and gestation. The authors argue that the ethnomedical conditions of "delayed" and "suspended" menstruation and subsequent menstrual regulation are part of the "hidden reproductive transcript" of poor and powerless Brazilian women. Through popular culture, they voice their collective dissent to the official, public opinion about the illegality and immorality of induced abortion and the chronic lack of family planning services in Northeast Brazil. While many health professionals consider women's explanations of menstrual regulation as a "cover-up" for self-induced abortions, such popular justifications may represent either an unconscious or artful manipulation of hegemonic, anti-abortion ideology expressed in prudent, unobtrusive and veiled ways. The development of safer abortion alternatives should consider women's hidden reproductive transcripts.