The Abortion Debate: An Analysis of Psychological Assumptions underlying Legislation and Professional Decision-Making



In 1988, 183 798 women in England and Wales had pregnancies terminated under the 1967 Abortion Act. As recent attempts to amend this legislation have shown, induced termination of pregnancy is a procedure which brings together social, political and moral, as well as medical and psychological issues. Psychologists and psychiatrists, however, have tended to concentrate on a relatively narrow range of topics related to abortion, such as the characteristics of women seeking termination, women’s decision-making, counselling women seeking abortion and women’s reactions to abortion. Such topics are, of course, important but they have two features which are often overlooked. First, they individualise abortion and present it as a ‘private’ procedure which concerns the woman and her doctor or counsellor. Second, this choice of topics tends to pathologise abortion by implying that those who seek it may be deviant, or may be adversely affected by the procedure and need professional help. Thus, abortion could be added to the list of women’s experiences which have been associated in the literature with illness or vulnerability (Ussher, 1989).


Official Report Supreme Court Ruling Medical Judgement Illegal Abortion Abortion Debate 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1992

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