Induced abortion among a group of black South African women: An exploratory study of factors influencing short- term post-abortion adjustment
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Throughout recorded history, women have resorted to abortion to terminate unwanted pregnancies, despite religious and legal sanctions, and frequently at significant personal risk. Abortion is, therefore, one of the oldest and at the same time most controversial of approaches to fertility control. More than most procedures, abortion is embedded in a social context that has implications for psychological responses of women. However, whilst South Africa's restrictive abortion legislation has come to the forefront of public scrutiny in recent years, research on the psychological aspects of induced abortion among black South African women has received minimal attention from social science researchers. This consideration requires redress since South Africa's abortion policy has undoubtedly had an impact on black women's mental health. Although unwanted pregnancy and the decision to abort are frequently perceived as stressful, evidence to date suggests that women do not experience severe negative reactions to abortion. Nevertheless, research has shown that some women do experience negative reactions following abortion. The responses of these women, placed within the context of the large numbers of black women who procure abortions and the immense social significance of the issue, point to a need to identify those women who are at risk for experiencing difficulties after abortion. This thesis, therefore, aimed to explore women's interpretations of the factors that influence short-term post-abortion adjustment. Five women who had procured illegal abortions were interviewed. A thematic analysis was utilised to explore participants' accounts of their abortion experiences. Furthermore, the present inquiry attempted to identify, through participants' discourses, psycho-social factors that may serve as 'risk factors' for poor post-abortion adjustment. The findings revealed that the abortion experience varies in the amount and type of stress it engenders for women. The manner in which these women responded to the procedure was found to be a joint function of their psychological state and of the social milieu in which the abortion occurred. Participants' post-abortion adjustment was found to be significantly influenced by the extent to which they experienced decision difficulty, the nature of the social environment surrounding the abortion process and individual coping responses. Thus, the findings of the study accentuate the need for counselling interventions designed to facilitate adjustment to abortion. These issues are likely to become of increased importance as the South African government deliberates on its public policy on abortion.