Exploring the psychological sequelae of women who have undergone abortion : a multiple case-study approach
The South African government has legalised abortion with the intention of reducing deaths from clandestine and illegally performed abortions. With this Act came the freedom of choice regarding termination of pregnancies for most women who found themselves in the midst of unintended pregnancies and could not carry them to term. The aims of this study were to examine the process of decision making, the role of perceived support and women's psychological outcomes to abortion taking into consideration the accessibility to psychological interventions and mental stability prior to the procedure. Personal, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five women aged between 22 and 24 years who had legal, induced abortions within the first trimester of their pregnancies. Interviews were conducted within at least two months after the abortion had been performed. A qualitative analysis of the findings revealed that responses to abortion are influenced by the decision-making process, perceived social support, and the dynamics of the relationships in which the child is conceived. These factors play a vital role in the ultimate psychological outcome and adjustment to the abortion process. The women's responses involved negative and positive emotions towards the resolution of the unintended pregnancy. Negative emotions included among others, feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt and sadness. These were associated with the loss. The predominantly expressed positive emotion was relief. The conclusion yielded was that the relationship between the two consenting adults is significant and it is influential in the decision making, perceived support and therefore the response to abortion.