Telling Their Stories: Puerto Rican Women and Abortion

By Jean P. Peterman | Go to book overview

7
Conclusion: Puerto Rican Women Creating a Collective Story

Contrary to popular stereotypes about Latinas, this research suggests that many Puerto Rican women do not accept traditional gender roles for themselves. A majority of these women have redefined abortion in a positive way, and their accounts suggest that they value egalitarian relationships rather than male centered ones.

There are two sources for the stereotype that Puerto Rican women accept the cultural story, a religious one and a political one. According to the religiously based variant, Latina culture values marianismo, or veneration of the Virgin Mary, and an acceptance of virginity, marriage and motherhood as essential to being a good woman ( Burgos and Diaz Perez 1986; Campbell 1984). This characterization is similar to the version of the cultural story most of my these women and the older focus group grew up with. These cultural values are powerful influences in the lives of Puerto Rican women, yet many women are beginning to question or reject them.

A politically radical (yet gender conservative) version argues that when a Latina transgresses a gender boundary, for example, by working for wages or getting an abortion, she does so only because she is poor ( Russo 1991). In the case of abortion, this theory suggests that Latina women have abortions mainly for economic reasons, in that they continue to see themselves as mothers (or mothers and wives) who are simply too poor to have another child. The economic resources of each woman dearly affected how she was able to cope with her situation (e.g. Carmen's self-abortion with a toothbrush), and what opportunities were available to her. It is equally dear that many of my respondents reject the cultural story for themselves. Having an abortion allowed these women some control in determining the course of their lives. It allowed them to maintain whatever opportunities they had.

Before proceeding further with the main argument of this chapter, I will examine how poverty has affected Puerto Rican women's lives, and

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