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Original scientific paper

Debating Abortion and Contraception in Socialist Yugoslavia: A Microhistorical Perspective

Chiara Bonfiglioli ; University College Cork
Sara Žerić orcid id

Full text: english pdf 174 Kb

page 147-162

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This article discusses the debates on abortion rights and practices that took place in socialist Yugoslavia. It focuses on the microhistorical case studies of Varaždin and Karlovac, with specific attention given to the period between the first liberalisation of abortion for social reasons in 1960 and the full liberalisation of abortion until 10 weeks in 1969. The primary sources for this article stem from the collections of the Conference for the Social Activity of Women in the Croatian State Archives, as well as periodicals such as Arhiv za zaštitu majke i djeteta issued by the Institute for the Protection of Mother and Child in Zagreb. Digitalised local press sources – Varaždinski vjesnik and Karlovački tjednik – are also explored. As shown in the paper, the liberalisation of abortion in 1960s Yugoslavia generated a wide array of dilemmas for women and practitioners alike. While legal abortions were seen as necessary to curb illegal ones, they were nonetheless perceived by local practitioners as something that should best be prevented and which could prejudice a woman’s reproductive abilities, particularly in the case of first pregnancies. Many women recurred to legal and illegal abortion as a result of the lack in health infrastructure, unavailable contraceptives, difficult social conditions and persisting patriarchal gender norms.


socialist Yugoslavia, abortion, contraception, microhistory

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Article data in other languages: croatian

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