Over time and across societies, scholars have documented a slow but steady global trend toward liberalization in laws regulating gender, sexuality, and reproduction. However, scholars’ tendencies to compare “countries that progress” with “countries that do not progress” ultimately miss a key category of analysis—countries where gender-based rights are not simply stagnating, but reversing. A handful of nations—including the United States—have recently experienced reversals of existing, legal, gender-based rights, particularly in relation to reproductive justice. Viterna and colleagues’ recent research focuses heavily on rights reversals in El Salvador, where the 1997 imposition of an absolute abortion ban limits pregnant individuals’ access to necessary medical care, and justifies the incarceration of women who suffer obstetrical emergencies. Future research traces the development of the highly-successful, closely-networked, anti-abortion movements in the US, Nicaragua, and El Salvador to document how similar legislation is differentially encoded in state institutions, and how this differential encoding in turn has profound consequences for people’s bodies and lives.

Related Publications:

2023    Mena Ugarte SC, Rodriguez Funes MV, Viterna J., "Maternal morbidity under an absolute abortion ban: insights from a 6-year case series of fatal fetal malformations in El Salvador," Am J Obstet Gynecol Glob Rep Feb; 3(1): 100147.

2022    Editorial, Los Angeles Times. "Abortion Ban 'Exceptions' Cannot Protect Life." July 5. PDF

2018    Viterna, Jocelyn, Jose Santos Guardado Bautista, Silvia Juárez Barrios, and Alba Evelyn Cortez.  “Governance and the Reversal of Women’s Rights: The Case of Abortion in El Salvador.” Pp. 255-276 in Towards Gender Equity in Development, edited by Siwan Anderson, Lori Beaman, and Jean-Philippe Platteau.  United Nations University-Wider Studies in Development Economics.  Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

2017    Viterna, Jocelyn and Jose Santos Guardado Bautista. “Pregnancy and the 40-year Prison Sentence: How “Abortion is Murder” Became Institutionalized in the Salvadoran Judicial System.” The Health and Human Rights Journal. 19 (1): 81-93. 

2017    Reifenberg, Natasha and Jocelyn Viterna. “Las Otras Beatrices.” El Faro (Salvadoran Newspaper). November 10. 

2017    Editorial, Los Angeles Times. “The Real Reason El Salvador Jails Women for Stillbirths? It’s Called Moral Panic.”  July 30.

2017    Viterna, Jocelyn and Natasha Reifenberg.  La politica es complicada; la ciencia es concluyente: El aborto terapeutico salva la vida de las mujeres. David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

2016    Viterna, Jocelyn. “Zika and Abortion: Reproductive Justice in El Salvador.” Revista: Harvard Review of Latin America. Vol XV, No. 3 (Spring 2016): 254-27.

Translated and reprinted as La condena de la embarazada pobre in the Salvadoran newspaper, El Faro, on July 28, 2016. 

2014    Viterna, Jocelyn. “Conceiving while Poor; Imprisoned for MurderNACLA Report on the Americas.  Fall. 47(3). Pp. 34-37.

Reprinted December 2014 as “El Salvador Imprisons 17 Women Who Lost Their Newborns for Murder” on the Global Voices website. 

2014    Viterna, Jocelyn. “Radical or Righteous?  Using Gender to Shape Public Perceptions of Political Violence.”  Pp. 189-216 in Dynamics of Political Violence: A Process-Oriented Perspective on Radicalization and the Escalation of Political Conflict, edited by Lorenzo Bosi, Chares Demetriou, and Stefan Malthaner. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing.

2014    Viterna, Jocelyn and Jose Santos Guardado Bautista. “Principios Legales vs. Discriminación de Género.” El Faro. November 17.  

2012    Viterna, Jocelyn. “The Left and ‘Life’:  The Politics of Abortion in El Salvador.”  Politics and Gender 8 (2): 248-254.