Bernadette Mattauer


  • close

    The dynamic of meaning in requested legal abortion


    Bernadette Mattauer  (F)


    I worked as a psychologist in the birth control centre of the hospital in Montpellier, France, for 15 years. A unique clinical experiment has been led by three psychologists working together in this area.


    The counselling process sets the  memory in motion, even though at first the person remains immersed  in the immediacy of her request.The counselling process opens a space within which the complexity of the circumstances and of a frequently ambivalent decision can be questioned.


    The situations that stand out as sources of unwanted pregnancies are periods of change, in which relationships are being modified and sometimes disturbed:


    -emotional changes : teenage, pre-menopause, couples in the process of joining or splitting). Changes due to a series of failures or more or less recent experiences of loss, of whatever kind.

    -professional changes, which result in a reorganization of tasks and social relations.


    In the process towards womanhood, it seems that abortion is frequently associated with the shaping of one’s identity, together with the problematics of castration.


    Abortion would be an ideational representative as it were, being both addition and cut, assertion and separation. The abortion often works as the ‘representation’ of an unsuccessful separation process in the route towards womanhood. The present act of separation, the actual experience of loss, sometimes act as a symbolic way of re-enacting a previously unsolved bereavement. Thus refusing a pregnancy has a parting function. Being pregnant can stand for the part-object of ‘completeness’, a phantasy whose function it to repair and/or to fill in.


    Beyond the arguments uttered and their usual motivations, the analysis of many women’s itineraries has enabled us to grasp and shed light on some unconscious motivations.


    These two obviously antagonistic moments: the pregnancy and its termination are yet interconnected.


    The dynamic of meaningof those events, whether they are experienced as apparently trivial or felt tragically, never leaves women indifferent. A terminated pregnancy is never a non-event. But that pregnancy was not aimed at giving birth, and is seldom rooted in the desire to have a child. Therefore it is not synonymous with rejecting a child.


    The aim of our study is to convey the idea that a terminated pregnancy can at times  contribute to reshaping a woman’s identity through symbolic work.