If pictures are both ‘alive and dead,’ how can visual culture even begin to represent a difficult subject such as abortion, without engaging in some form of symbolic or abstract violence? And what impact, if any, can such aesthetic conceptualisations have on interpretations of abortion as either legally permissible or transgressive? This chapter will consider whether abortion will always remain under a form of ‘arrest’, struggling to move beyond overwhelming ‘visual negativity’ and ‘symbolic violence’ within visual art. Framing abortion as a site frequently under legal and aesthetic contestation, this question will be addressed by looking to the work of three artists from the United Kingdom, the United States and Portugal – Helen Chadwick, Aliza Shvarts and Paula Rego respectively. The intersection of aesthetic discourse and abortion law in the abortion controversy will therefore be key to rethinking the challenges that art and law can present to each other, often in surprisingly constructive ways.
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