Abortion discourse in Bolivian hospital contexts: doctors' repertoire conflicts and the Saving Women device

Susanna Rance
Sociology of Health & Illness 2005, 27 (2): 188-214
The author proposes going Beyond attitudes (Potter and Wetherell 1987) to a more nuanced assessment of doctors' discursive variations. Through an application of Gilbert and Mulkay's (1984) interpretative repertoires, she defined three voices--technical, normative and pragmatic--in which Bolivian doctors spoke of abortion. In State and social security hospital contexts, doctors hastened to express compliance with government policy and institutional norms regulating abortion and postabortion care. Technical and pragmatic considerations, however, often entered into conflict with established rules. When contradictions became apparent in their own discourse, doctors regularly drew on the Saving Women device. This accounting strategy enabled them to save face as up-to-date professionals through justifying temporary deviance from norms in terms of benefit to women treated. The author describes her development of the repertoires, their validation with different medical audiences, and doctors' critical appropriation of the model to explain their own discursive variations.

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