Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Mark Hector

Committee Members

Howard Pollio, Patricia Droppleman, Sandra Thomas


This project provided a description of women's experience of abortion. In-depth, non-directive interviews were conducted with ten adult women in which they were asked to describe what stood out for them about their experience of abortion. Transcribed interviews constituted the raw data, and a method informed by hermeneutic analysis was used for purposes of describing the thematic structure of the experience. Findings indicated that this structure was defined by four themes: (1) Wrong and Right Aspects; (2) Issues of Life and Death; (3) Absence or Presence of Support; and (4) A Hard Thing to Go Through. These themes were always contextualized by the two larger experiential grounds of (1) Who I Am (Who I was, Who I Expect to Be) and (2) Others. The ground of "Who I Am" reflected participants' sense of personal identity and included self-ascribed attributes, values and beliefs, and future aspirations. The ground of "Others" consisted of the socio-cultural context, and included messages about abortion from family, religion, and politics. It also included an awareness of other women who had abortions, and descriptions of the relationship within which the pregnancy occurred.

The first theme, Wrong and Right Aspects, captured participants' awareness of the moral dimensions of their abortion experience. For most of the women, the idea of abortion as wrong initially dominated their perspective; this view, however, was invariably attenuated by the knowledge that abortion was the right choice at this time. The second theme, Issues of Life and Death, reflected participants' experience of abortion as an existential matter. The third theme, Absence or Presence of Support. described the participants' awareness of the need for support in relation to the abortion experience. This theme was discussed in terms of the woman's relationship with herself, her anticipations of responses from others, and in the actual responses she received from others. The fourth theme, A Hard Thing to Go Through, conveyed participants' awareness of the abortion experience as difficult to endure. This theme best captured the experiential tone of the abortion experience as a whole for most participants.

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