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Gouverner les mœurs

La lutte contre l'avortement en France, 1890-1950

Collection : Études et enquêtes historiques

2016, 416 pages


n° ISBN 978-2-7332-1062-8

27,00 € Buy

Governing Mores: The Battle Against Abortion in France, 1890-1950

Préface. Lutter contre l’avortement. Histoire d’une passion biopolitique [Preface. Combating abortion: the history of a biopolitical passion.  Paul-André Rosental


Première partie. Genèse d’un fléau social [Part I. The genesis of a social evil]

Chapitre I. Les conditions d’une mise en accusation [The conditions for indictment]

Chapitre II. La prohibition souple [Flexible prohibition]

Deuxième partie comment combattre l’avortement ? [Part II. How to combat abortion?]

Chapitre III. Une croisade pour la « vie » [A crusade for “life”]

Chapitre IV. Construire une politique de lutte [Constructing a battle plan]

Troisième partie. Haine de l’avortement et renforcement de l’État [Part III. Hatred of abortion and re-enforcement of the state]

Chapitre V. L’exacerbation [Exacerbation]

Chapitre VI. L’effort de rationalisation institutionnelle [Working toward institutional rationalisation]

Chapitre VII. Le double apogée de la répression [The dual apogee of repression]

Quatrième partie. Redéfinition des politiques de la vie et maillage médico-social [Part IV. Redefining biopolicies and extending the regional health care and social services network]

Chapitre VIII. L’heure du doute [The hour of doubt]

Chapitre IX. Les dernières cartes : éducation, responsabilisation, face-à-face [The last hand: education, responsibilization, face-to-face contact]

Conclusion générale [General Conclusion]

Sources et références bibliographiques [Sources and references]

Annexes [Appendices]

Index des combattants anti-avortement [Index of anti-abortion activists]




“Criminal” abortion, a clandestine practice that remained illegal in France until 1975, was the subject of a fierce battle from the late 19th to the mid-20th century that mobilized a multitude of protagonists and substantial private and public resources. The attempt to eradicate this “social evil” was orchestrated by a wide range of actors including the highest state decision-makers. It belongs conjointly to the history of scientific knowledge, political institutions, and activist groups and professionals. The author reconstitutes this complexity, closely following all the actors involved, revealing the vast scope of an enterprise that extended beyond repression. The fight against abortion in France ran up against the reality of a social activity that was in some cases highly organized and that constantly managed to foil the authorities. The book raises the question of the governability of demographic behaviours, providing material for reflecting on the social impact of public policy.

Fabrice Cahen is an historian, researcher at INED and partnership at ESOPP ((EHESS/CRH, Sciences Po). His works focuses on political and social regulation of human reproduction in contemporary France.

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