Abortion as stigma: cognitive and emotional implications of concealment

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Oct;77(4):735-45. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.77.4.735.


This study examined the stigma of abortion and psychological implications of concealment among 442 women followed for 2 years from the day of their abortion. As predicted, women who felt stigmatized by abortion were more likely to feel a need to keep it a secret from family and friends. Secrecy was related positively to suppressing thoughts of the abortion and negatively to disclosing abortion-related emotions to others. Greater thought suppression was associated with experiencing more intrusive thoughts of the abortion. Both suppression and intrusive thoughts, in turn, were positively related to increases in psychological distress over time. Emotional disclosure moderated the association between intrusive thoughts and distress. Disclosure was associated with decreases in distress among women experiencing intrusive thoughts of their abortion, but was unrelated to distress among women not experiencing intrusive thoughts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Truth Disclosure*