Ambivalence--a logical response to legal abortion: a prospective study among women and men

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2000 Jun;21(2):81-91. doi: 10.3109/01674820009075613.


The aim of the study was to elucidate ambivalence in relation to legal abortion by studying emotions, attitudes, motives for abortion and ethical reasoning in a strategic sample of women and men who, 1 year after abortion, expressed both positive and painful feelings in relation to the abortion. The study shows that social perspectives legitimate the decision to have an abortion whilst ethical perspectives complicate the decision. Nearly all women and men described having the abortion as an expression of responsibility. Almost one-half also had parallel feelings of guilt, as they regarded the abortion as a violation of their ethical values. The majority of the sample expressed relief while simultaneously experiencing the termination of the pregnancy as a loss coupled with feelings of grief/emptiness. In spite of the ambivalence, only one woman regretted the abortion. For the vast majority, the impact of the abortion had led to increased maturity and deepened self-knowledge. Thus, ambivalence might be regarded not only as problematic but also as indicating openness to the complexity of the abortion issue. Since incompatible values clash in connection with abortion, experiences of ambivalence become both logical and understandable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / psychology*
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Decision Making
  • Ethics
  • Female
  • Guilt
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Women / psychology*