Abortion Counselling in Britain: Understanding the Controversy

Hoggart, Lesley (2015). Abortion Counselling in Britain: Understanding the Controversy. Sociology Compass, 9(5) pp. 365–378.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/soc4.12256

Abstract

This article reviews literature from a number of disciplines in order to provide an explanation of the political controversy attached to the provision of abortion counselling. It will show how this is an area of health policy debate in which women's reproductive bodies have become a setting for political struggle. The issue of abortion counselling in Britain has undergone a number of discursive shifts in response to political manoeuvring and changing socio-legal framing of abortion. In particular, the article shows how much of the controversial reframing of abortion counselling was a tactical shift by political actors opposed to abortion per se, and this work is critiqued for not contextualising abortion. The article then focuses on women's abortion experiences and discusses research that shows how women's decision-making processes, and responses to an abortion, are related to gendered socio-cultural contexts: the extent to which women having an abortion feel they have transgressed societal norms and values, for example, is likely to affect their abortion experiences. Finally, it is suggested that providing a non-judgemental context, and challenging negative discourses on abortion, may be the most effective way of minimising the possibility of negative emotions.

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