Captured (and disturbing for some): A last look at the abortionist

Kate Gleeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article reflects on a recent exhibition hosted at the Sydney Justice and Police Museum. The Femme Fatale exhibition aimed to highlight the way "society has interpreted and contained the criminality of women", through the depiction of women convicted of various crimes, including abortion related offences. This article discusses the abortion display of the exhibition to explore the longstanding political anxiety provoked by abortion imagery. It focuses on the ongoing power of the image of abortion, and the female abortionist in particular, and questions the potential for the deployment of such imagery in a feminist context. The article argues that by focusing on the female abortionist as she was targeted by the police, and not on catastrophic outcomes for her patients, the Femme Fatale exhibition highlights the historical, mundane realities of women's reproductive lives, and the centrality of women's networks to this world. It challenges hegemonic medical authority that has claimed women's reproductive praxis as its own, and importantly, alludes to the power historically deployed by midwives before this medical colonisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)520-529
Number of pages10
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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