Choosing induced abortion: an existential event?
Maria Liljas Stålhandske (Sweden)
Centre for the Study of Religion and Society, Faculty of Theology, Box 511, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden
How do Swedish women cope with early induced abortion as a life event? This paper raises the issue of women’s existential needs in relation to abortion. Material from an ongoing empirical study, including interviews with women who have had an early abortion and personnel working in abortion care, will be presented. The study works out of a feministic perspective and aims at bringing a partly tabooed question connected to female reproductivity into the scholarly discussion. The aim is not to question the liberal abortion legislation in Sweden, which the author endorses.
To make an induced abortion is to make a crucial decision. Current Swedish abortion research shows that the decision often comprises strong and conflicting emotions. For many women it means to go through a period where feelings of pride, desperation, relief, grief and emptiness succeed each other. At the same time abortion is not included among those life events that people normally share and manifest through religious and/or social rituals and traditions. The consequences of this for women’s existential wellbeing have not yet been studied in international research.
The preliminary results of the study indicate that the need of existential and/or ritual processing is dependent upon the degree to which the woman experienced the abortion decision as difficult or ambivalent. When ritualizations of the event occur, they also seem to take different forms depending on how the woman relates to the aborted fetus.