Greek women face issues different than those of American women when considering having an abortion, Alexandra Halkias said yesterday during a seminar at Harvard's Center for Literary and Cultural studies.
Halkias, a Ph.D. candidate in the Communications Department of the University of California at San Diego, is nearing completion of a dissertation on abortion in Greece. As part of her research, she observed and interviewed women in a family planning clinic in Athens from December 1993 to December 1994.
Some of the women she interviewed saw abortion as "a stop-gap measure to protect the livelihood of the [woman] and her family," Halkias said.
One woman felt that although she was wrong to abort her fetus, she had an obligation to do so because of her inability to provide for another child, Halkias said.
Financial concerns "position [a woman] right in the middle of two moral collision courses," Halkias emphasized.
Translating from an interview conducted in Greek, she quoted the woman's description of her dilemma:
"I can't blame [the child] from the moment I brought it into the world [for the financial difficulties it would create], and I can't kill it from the moment it was conceived,'" Halkias said.
Halkias estimated that approximately 200,000 Greek women have abortions each year. She said this high rate is perceived as an "issue of national concern" because of dimografiko,the Greek state's self-declared demographic problems, which include the aging of the population and the shortage of males eligible to serve in the Greek army.
Halkias, whose talk was entitled "(Re)Producing Docile Subjects?: Abortion and Configurations of Gender in Athens Today," said that the condemnation of abortion by the Greek government urges women to produce docile subjects (males to serve Greece) and, in doing so, to reproduce themselves as docile subjects.
Despite their vital part in the problems of dimografiko, Greek women have hardly been involved in public discussion of the topic, Halkias said.
"There has been a pronounced absence of Greek women in the public debate over these national problems," she said.
Halkias said that although she hopes women will gain some voice in legislation on dimografiko in the near future, this is unlikely.
"Knowing Greece, it won't happen," she sighed.
While the Greek government leaves women out of the abortion debate and saddles them with national guilt for the abortions they have, many Greek women see abortion as a strategic advantage, however painful, in personal conflicts, Halkias said.
Halkias also said that Greeks do not see abortion as a loss the way Americans do.