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During the 1990s, between 150,000 and 400,000 abortions were performed annually in Greece. At the same time, the low birth rate - approximately 110,000 births each year in a population of more than ten million people - was considered a national crisis. It was extensively covered in the news media and scrutinized by a specially created committee in the Greek parliament. The Empty Cradle of Democracy explores the paradox of a high incidence of abortion in a country explicitly concerned with its declining birth rate and examines why abortion is a preferable alternative to the use of contraceptives for many Greek women.Alexandra Halkias argues that abortion is rendered more 'natural' by the same understandings of what it means to be Greek that underlie concerns about the diminishing 'national stock.' Halkias combines fieldwork she conducted at medical clinics in Athens in the mid-1990s with analyses of how the Greek media covered abortion and the declining birth rate during the same period. She observed more than 400 genealogical examinations at a state family planning clinic, and she interviewed 120 women who had had two or more abortions. Halkias shows how intimate personal decisions regarding abortion and the national preoccupation with the low birth rate connect to ideas of race, religion, passion, resistance, and the fraught encounter between modernity and tradition. The Empty Cradle of Democracy is an illuminating look at how the nation permeates the body and how understandings of gender and sexuality complicate the nation-building projects of late modernity.
Duke University Press
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<p>Alexandra Halkias is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Panteion University in Athens, Greece.
The question of Greek women's ready use of abortion and their 'failure' to use other methods of birth control is one that for some time has intrigued anthropologists. Alexandra Halkias's arguments about the 'naturalness' of abortion and the relationship of sexuality and national identity are fascinating. Jill Dubisch, author of In a Different Place: Pilgrimage, Gender, and Politics at a Greek Island Shrine