Anti-abortion rhetoric and the undermining of choice: Women’s agency as causing “psychological trauma” following the termination of a pregnancy

Journal article


Ntontis, E. 2019. Anti-abortion rhetoric and the undermining of choice: Women’s agency as causing “psychological trauma” following the termination of a pregnancy. Political Psychology. 41 (3), pp. 517-532. https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12634
AuthorsNtontis, E.
Abstract

Historically the anti-abortion movement has opposed abortions through reference to the fetus' human status. However, recently there has been a rhetorical shift whereby abortion is criticized based on its alleged negative psychological impact on women, with some authors voicing concerns related to this medicalized repertoire undermining women's capacity to act as rational decision-makers. However, no research to date has systematically analyzed how women’s agency over their abortions features in anti-abortion rhetoric. In this discourse analysis of interviews with 15 anti-abortion supporters, I explore how psychological concepts are employed to indirectly undermine women's agency to abort. Participants construct the termination of a pregnancy as psychologically damaging when women’s agency is evident (e.g., in abortions or rape pregnancy abortions). Also women's choice appears as enforced by society, victimizing them and removing accountability over it. However, unintentional termination (e.g., miscarriage) is constructed as “natural” and psychologically harmless due to the lack of agency. Overall, the pathologization of abortion through reference to psychological trauma stemming from the exercise of agency allows anti-abortionists to naturalize motherhood and oppose abortions in an “objective”, depoliticized, non-restrictive, and pro-woman manner, without explicitly disregarding women’s ability to choose or breaching Western norms of autonomy and freedom of choice.

Keywordstrauma; framing; motherhood; anti-abortion; abortion; pro-life movement
Year2019
JournalPolitical Psychology
Journal citation41 (3), pp. 517-532
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
ISSN0162-895X
1427-9221
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12634
Official URLhttps://doi.org/10.1111/pops.12634
Publication dates
Online20 Oct 2019
PrintJun 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Sep 2019
Accepted29 Sep 2019
Accepted author manuscript
License
Output statusPublished
References

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ContributorsNtontis, E.
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