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Psychologising abortion : psychology and the construction of post abortion trauma.

Lee, Eleanor Jane (2001) Psychologising abortion : psychology and the construction of post abortion trauma. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94476) (KAR id:94476)


As I detail in Chapter 1 of this thesis, when 'lunchtime abortion' caused a furore in the British media, many objected to a service which aimed to make abortion as quick and simple as possible on the grounds of concern for women's psychological well-being. Critics of the service claimed in particular that it failed to offer women sufficient counselling, which, it was alleged, is needed to alleviate the negative feelings abortion entails. Taking this claim against 'easy abortion' as my starting point, in Chapters 1 to 5, I present a sociological approach to examination of the claim that abortion is psychologically damaging and that, as a result, women require counselling when they terminate pregnancy. As explain in Chapter 2, to do so, I draw on the work of feminist social scientists who have been influenced by the work of Michel Foucault.

In chapters 3, 4 and 5, I utilise a Foucauldian approach to interrogate the ways in which the psychological effects of abortion have been constructed in parliamentary and extra-parliamentary debates. I discuss the construction of abortion as a 'mental health' issue, I detail the argument made by opponents of abortion that abortion leads to Post-Abortion Syndrome, and I also examine the framing of the psychological effects of abortion in prochoice discourse, which in part entails an argument for abortion counselling.

My overall resulting hypothesis is that the construction of abortion as a procedure which has significant, negative psychological effects, is likely to have influenced abortion service provision, and the experience of abortion for women who undergo it. In Chapters 6 to 9, I assess whether and how this is the case, through analysis of interviews with abortion counsellors and with women who have had an abortion. As I discuss in the final chapter, the results of this analysis suggest a more complex picture than my hypothesis allowed for. I therefore suggest how future research, particularly about women's experience of abortion, could be developed in a way that develops and improves upon that discussed in the following pages.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94476
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Counselling
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 13:31 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 13:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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