Rupture and continuity: abortion, the medical profession, and the transitional state—a Polish case study

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Taking Poland as a case study, this article examines the sociological and historical institutional factors that determine the relationship between the process of medical professionalisation and reproductive rights in transitional societies. Focusing on three periods in Polish history, (a) Partition era (1772–1918), (b) the Second Polish Republic (1918–1939), and (c) the post-war period (1945–1989), it identifies ruptures and continuities that have shaped the development of the Polish medical profession and its attitude towards abortion care today. Using insights from feminist historical institutionalism, abortion studies, and the sociology of professions, the article applies the concept of ‘dialectical transformations’ to explain institutional and policy reproduction and change over time. It shows how professional and legal institutions are often transferred from one systemic context to another by individuals or organisations whose positions move from opposition to dominance. Understanding such processes is especially important in light of the retrenchment of reproductive rights across the globe.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages28
JournalFeminist Legal Studies
Early online date26 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jun 2021


  • Abortion, Historical institutionalism, Poland, Sociology of professions, The medical profession, Transitional society