Human rights, reproductive rights, and population policies: a theoretical intervention, an analytical proposal, and an application to the case of Mexico




Cervantes-Carson, Alejandro Roberto

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The central objective of this dissertation is to study the relationship between reproductive rights and population policies, at an international level and within national contexts. My dissertation research achieved this general goal in three ways. First, I offer a theoretical intervention in the contemporary debate about human rights; on their global need, validity, universality, and foundations. Second, I generate an analytical proposal for the study of reproductive rights as an international discourse and as a group of normative standards within nations. Third, I develop an application of the analytical framework to the case of contemporary Mexico. In chapter one, I evaluate the virtues and problems of the contemporary discourse on human rights in light of the debate between critical theorists, communitarians and liberal philosophers about the possibility of universal moral judgment. Situated within that theoretical debate, in chapter two I analyze the social and normative meaning of reproductive rights. I also offer a sociological interpretation of the relationship, as well as the conflicts and tensions, that emerge between the enforcement of population policies of nation states and the rights of citizens to decide over their bodies and reproduction. My intention is to advance an analytical proposal for the study of reproductive rights within the social and political dynamics of specific countries. In chapter three, in turn, I examine contemporary Mexico (since the 1970s) as an empirical case where the enforcement of population policies by governmental institutions has resulted in authoritarian practices that have violated the rights of Mexican citizens, despite its liberal constitution and legislation, and the emergence of civil organizations promoting the defense of reproductive rights in the country. Finally, this dissertation belongs to the current tradition of critical theory. It is informed by Habermas' theory of communicative action, and benefits from the insights of both the debate on discourse ethics, and on deliberative democracy.