Women’s embodied experiences of second trimester medical abortion

Purcell, Carrie; Brown, Audrey; Melville, Catriona and McDaid, Lisa M (2017). Women’s embodied experiences of second trimester medical abortion. Feminism & Psychology, 27(2) pp. 163–185.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353517692606


Abortions in general, and second trimester abortions in particular, are experiences which in many contexts have limited sociocultural visibility. Research on second trimester abortion worldwide has focused on a range of associated factors including risks and acceptability of abortion methods, and characteristics and decision-making of women seeking the procedure. Scholarship to date has not adequately addressed the embodied physicality of second trimester abortion, from the perspective of women’s lived experiences, nor how these experiences might inform future framings of abortion. To progress understandings of women’s embodied experiences of second trimester abortion, we draw on the accounts of 18 women who had recently sought second trimester abortion in Scotland. We address four aspects of their experiences: later recognition of pregnancy; experiences of a second trimester pregnancy which ended in abortion; the “labour” of second trimester abortion; and the subsequent bodily transition. The paper has two key aims: Firstly, to make visible these experiences, and to consider how they relate to dominant sociocultural narratives of pregnancy; and secondly, to explore the concept of “liminality” as one means for interpreting them. Our findings contribute to informing future research, policy and practice around second trimester abortion. They highlight the need to maintain efforts to reduce silences around abortion and improve equity of access.

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