Necessary and impossible: On existential needs and expressions in relation to induced abortion
2009 (English)In: Welfare and Values in Europe: Transitions related to Religion, Minorities and Gender, 2009Conference paper (Refereed)
How do Swedish women cope with induced abortion as a life event? Do existential and spiritual issues have anything to do with women’s psychological and existential wellbeing after an induced abortion? The paper presents material from a pilot study and an on-going crossdisciplinary study, involving the Institution of Women’s and Children’s Health and the Institution of Public Health at Uppsala University, exploring experiences and acts that are significant for aborting women. The purpose of the study is not to question the Swedish abortion legislation, but to investigate how individuals deal with existential experiences within a secularized context. The material includes interviews with women going through induced abortion. The project works out of a feministic perspective and aims at bringing a partly tabooed question connected to female reproductivity into the scholarly discussion.
The study is designed on basis of the idea that it might be possible to detect movements relevant for religious studies by studying situations where people are more or less forced into the existential domain. In these situations, the idea is, it might be possible to detect those personal attempts at meaning-making that arise in a time distinduished by religious privatization and what has been called the subjective turn. Outside the frames of both traditional religion and alternative therapies people are still hit by life and death. In the absence of overarching spiritual references the individual is forced to make meaning out of the bits and pieces that lay at hand. Therefore, the research presented here does not look at specificly religious, spritiual or ritual activities, but a situation that existentially challenges the individual in order to see how she handles this, where she goes to find support, how she interprets the situation and expresses her sense of meaning.
Early induced abortion is an incomplicated medical operation, and about every fourth pregnancy in Sweden is ended through abortion. At the same time a young, secularized woman who is grateful about the legal possibility to abort, can describe the abortion decision as beyond what ”really can be demanded of a human being”. Current Swedish abortion research shows that the decision often comprises strong and conflicting emotions. For many women it means to go through a period where feelings of pride, desperation, relief, grief and emptiness succeed each other. At the same time abortion is not included among those life events that people normally share and manifest through religious and social rituals and traditions. The consequences of this for women’s existential wellbeing have not yet been studied in international research. The studies referred to in this paper is a first attempt to fill this gap. The preliminary findings suggest that abortion is experienced in a wide variety of ways, and that while many women find the process easy to go through, it initiates an existential journey for others.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Medical and Health Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-109593OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-109593DiVA: diva2:273110
Welfare and Values in Europe:Transitions related to Religion, Minorities and Gender, Uppsala, Sweden, 26-28 march 2009
ProjectsInduced abortion, existential needs, existential expressions, subjective turn, religious privatization