Private Troubles and Public Issues: Providing Abortion Amid Competing Definitions
Roe, Kathleen M.
Social Science and Medicine. 1989; 29(10): 1191-1198.
Sixteen years after the Supreme Court liberalized abortion policy, the United States continues to debate two competing and seemingly irreconcileable definitions of abortion. The experience of those who provide abortion has received relatively little research attention despite this unique set of historical circumstances. This paper presents findings from an exploratory study of 130 abortion workers (physicians, nurses and counselors). The data suggest that, despite formal beliefs about abortion rights, the situated experience of providing legal abortion evokes a range of abortion definitions. Seven central definition themes were cited repeatedly by the respondents: abortion as a woman's right, a destructive act, part of the practitioner's work, a technical procedure, a positive act, murder and an irresponsible act. Respondents perceived each definition to fit within one of three fixed and familiar perspectives: medical, pro-choice or pro-life....
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