Sex Roles

, Volume 71, Issue 11–12, pp 436–449 | Cite as

The Precious Vessel: Ambivalent Sexism and Opposition to Elective and Traumatic Abortion

  • Yanshu HuangEmail author
  • Danny Osborne
  • Chris G. Sibley
  • Paul G. Davies
Original Article


Ambivalent sexism theory highlights the pernicious effects of benevolent sexism on women’s freedoms in society. Because the ideology idealizes women as nurturing mothers, benevolent sexism should be negatively associated with support for women’s reproductive rights. The current study examined this possibility by assessing the relationship between benevolent sexism and support for (a) elective abortion (i.e., abortions pursued, regardless of the reason) and (b) traumatic abortion (i.e., abortions pursued when the woman’s life is endangered) in a national probability sample of New Zealand adults (N = 6,132). As predicted, benevolent sexism was negatively associated with support for both elective and traumatic abortion. In contrast, hostile sexism—the punitive component of ambivalent sexism—was only negatively associated with support for traumatic abortion. These results demonstrate that ambivalent sexism—and particularly benevolent sexism—restricts women’s reproductive rights even in extreme cases where a woman’s life is in danger.


Ambivalent sexism Benevolent sexism Hostile sexism Traumatic abortion Elective abortion Motherhood 



Data collection for Time 3 of the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS) analyzed here was supported by a University of Auckland FRDF (3700683/9853) grant awarded to Danny Osborne, and Performance Based Research Funds jointly awarded to Chris G. Sibley and Danny Osborne.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yanshu Huang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Danny Osborne
    • 1
  • Chris G. Sibley
    • 1
  • Paul G. Davies
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaOkanaganCanada

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