The literature on psychosocial aspects of abortion is confusing. Individual publications must be interpreted in the context of cultural, religious, and legal constraints obtaining in a particular society at a given time, with due attention to the status and availability of alternatives to abortion that might be chosen by a woman with an "unwanted" pregnancy. A review of the literature shows that, where careful pre- and post-abortion assessments are made, the evidence is that psychological benefit commonly results, and serious adverse emotional sequelae are rare. The outcome of refused abortion seems less satisfactory, with regrets and distress frequently occurring. Research on the administration of abortion services suggests that counselling is often of value, that distress is frequently caused by delays in deciding upon and in carrying out abortions, and by unsympathetic attitudes of service providers. The phenomenon of repeated abortion seeking should be seen in the context of the availability and cost of contraception and sterilization. The place of sterilization with abortion requires careful study. A recommendation is made for observational descriptive research on populations of women with potentially unwanted pregnancies in different cultures, with comparisons of management systems and an evaluation of their impact on service users.