A recent survey of women seeking abortion reveals how many resort to the internet for help with their decision making due to difficulties in discussing their dilemma with the people around them.
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Almost half of all pregnancies are unplanned and there is an ongoing international debate surrounding abortion legislation. Interestingly though, legislation does not affect a woman’s decision to have an abortion. Although abortion legislation differs widely between countries, the number of people having abortions remains consistent from country to country. A woman who has decided to have an abortion will seek to realise this even legislation poses a barrier.
Berge Solberg, professor of medical ethics at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, commented "We find that the legislation on the issue doesn't affect the choice of action. The consequence of a ban or very strict laws against abortion isn't fewer abortions, but far more dangerous abortions, and a lot of suffering. Unsafe abortions are a major global health problem".
Aside from legislation, it is important for a woman considering abortion to be sure of her final choice. She may consider her situation not to be conducive to bringing up a child, whilst also finding it difficult to choose to end a life. It is a hard decision to make yet for many people it is a difficult topic to discuss, and so women may end up having to make the decision alone.
In 2017 there were almost 13,000 abortions carried out in Norway. Amongst women attending hospital to undergo an abortion up to 20% are uncertain about whether they should go ahead with the procedure and end up making the final decision at the hospital.
Assistant Professor Marianne Kjelsvik of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently conducted a study to voice the experiences of women who have faced the choice between terminating or completing their pregnancy.
Kjelsvik interviewed 13 women from six different hospitals in Norway who attended an appointment to have an abortion but were so unsure about their choice that they went home again to think about it more. The women, aged between 18 and 36 years, were interviewed again after four weeks and twelve weeks after they had made their decisions.
The overwhelming finding was that the women really needed someone to talk to who understood the difficult choice they had to make. Kjelsvik commented “Everyone has an opinion about abortion, but for the women who were in this situation, figuring out right and wrong became a complex question".
Despite abortion becoming less of a taboo subject, it is still difficult to find someone with whom to discuss such a life-changing decision. Solberg explained “Even people who regard abortion as unproblematic and not ethically difficult know that people can have strong opinions in the opposite direction. So, you become cautious about bringing up the topic".
Many of the woman wished they could have talked to their mother but had been hesitant to. Some had relied on internet posts about women who had been in the same situation.
The women all said that they felt well received and respected when they came to hospital for the abortion. However, they wished that staff could have dealt better with their doubts and had more time to listen to their concerns.
Although all the participants were relieved that the decision had been made, some women were still unsure about whether they had done the right thing.
For those who had decided to continue with the pregnancy, there was still a lingering doubt as the reason they had considered abortion had not disappeared. Some were troubled because they didn't enjoy being pregnant and worried whether they would be able to love the child.
Kjelsvik, M., Sekse, R. J. T., Moi, A. L., Aasen, E. M., Nortvedt, P. & Gjengedal, E. (2019). Beyond autonomy and care: experiences of ambivalent abortion seekers. Nursing Ethics, doi: 10.1177/0969733018819128
Norwegian University of Science and Technology Press Release 20 March 2019. Available at https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-03/nuos-tao032019.php