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Does Religious Counselling on Abortion Comply with Sweden’s ‘Women‑Friendly’ Abortion Policies?: A Qualitative Exploration Among Religious Counsellors
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), International Maternal and Reproductive Health and Migration.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9270-1095
Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University.
Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH), International Maternal and Reproductive Health and Migration.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2900-2849
2019 (English)In: Sexuality & Culture, ISSN 1095-5143, E-ISSN 1936-4822, Vol. 23, no 4, p. 1230-1249Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The abortion discourse in Sweden is marked by historically liberal ideals about women’s inviolable right to make autonomous reproductive decisions. However, to respond to the increase in cultural and religious pluralism building up over several decades, religious organizations have been given opportunities to provide so-called spiritual care in affiliation with Swedish hospitals since the 1980s. In this study we asked: in what ways do religious counsellors, affiliated with Swedish hospitals, construct their ideas on abortion, and how well do their ideas comply with Sweden’s ‘women-friendly’ abortion policies? Through interviews with Protestant, Catho-lic, Muslim, and Buddhist religious counsellors, we wanted to empirically test the presumption underlying the decisions to grant space to religious actors in Swedish healthcare, i.e., that religious counselling serves to complement existing services. We found that it cannot be expected that religious advice on abortion will always comply with Swedish abortion law and with the women-friendly abortion policy that the Swedish state seeks to impose. When policy-makers open up possibilities for diverse norms on abortion to manifest in close affiliation with healthcare institutions, they must be aware that some religious counsellors argue that only God—and not the woman herself—can decide whether a woman can terminate a pregnancy. We argue that the findings in this study speaks to what researchers have referred to as the “diversity-equality paradox”, which highlights the tension between the promotion of religious ideas on abortion on the one hand and the promotion of liberal ideas about women’s reproductive freedom on the other.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 23, no 4, p. 1230-1249
Keywords [en]
Abortion, Women’s rights, Religious counselling, Diversity promotion, The diversity–equality paradox, Healthcare, Sweden
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-389908DOI: 10.1007/s12119-019-09614-6ISI: 000490290000011OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-389908DiVA, id: diva2:1339880
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and WelfareAvailable from: 2019-07-31 Created: 2019-07-31 Last updated: 2019-11-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Sacred Ideals: Diversity and Equality in Swedish Reproductive Healthcare
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sacred Ideals: Diversity and Equality in Swedish Reproductive Healthcare
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

To promote diversity (mångfald) and equality (jämlikhet) is a key task for a wide range of welfare institutions in Sweden. The two terms appeal to several aspects simultaneously: inclusiveness, moral goodness, awareness and willingness to facilitate a positive social change. Diversity and equality have become, as I suggest in this thesis, two sacred ideals in Swedish society today. In the context of reproductive healthcare, various forms of diversity and equality measures are thought of as solutions to, for instance, inequalities between immigrant groups and others, structural discrimination of minority groups, and difficulties faced by the Swedish healthcare system in caring for patients’ diverse needs and preferences in clinical encounters. In this thesis, diversity and equality are analysed as two important governing mechanisms in the organisation of healthcare in multicultural Sweden. The aim was to explore how these ideals contribute to shape the provision of reproductive healthcare, and its consequences.

Paper I shows that targeted interventions towards immigrant women in contraceptive counselling risk singling out some women from standard routes of care because they are categorised as “immigrants” or “Muslims”. Paper II shows that demands upon healthcare providers to accommodate Muslim patients’ presumed needs have the potential of also creating needs that were not there from the start. Paper III shows that many religious counsellors who are affiliated with Swedish healthcare as spiritual advisers present ideas on abortion that are less progressive than what is stipulated in Swedish abortion law. Paper IV shows that imperatives to promote gender equality in contraceptive counselling were taken seriously by providers in their encounters with non-Western women, at the possible expense of respect for relationship structures that do not conform to the ideals of gender equality.

The findings presented in this thesis show that the interventions and initiatives that sought to presumably help disadvantaged groups of people (i.e. Muslims, immigrant women) could, in fact, be obstacles to solving the problems they were meant to address. I argue that the governance of Swedish reproductive healthcare through diversity and equality ideals must be problematised and balanced with regard to their plausible consequences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. p. 102
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 1593
Keywords
diversity, equality, gender equality, religion, reproductive health, migration, multicultural encounters, Scandinavia, Sweden
National Category
Other Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-392210 (URN)978-91-513-0737-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-10-18, Rudbecksalen, Rudbecklaboratoriet, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 20, Uppsala, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-09-26 Created: 2019-08-31 Last updated: 2019-10-15

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Arousell, JonnaEssén, Birgitta

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