Date of Award

Fall 2006

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Michele Dillon


The sociological literature on women's responses to the experience of abortion is remarkably sparse. This thesis seeks to contribute to redressing that research gap. I use semi-structured, in-depth interviews with twenty women from relatively diverse social backgrounds who have had abortions to explore the range of factors that they saw as being influential in their abortion decision and experience. Although the ages and the family circumstances of the women interviewed varied, and although some had more than one abortion, nevertheless, common themes emerged in their accounts of their abortion experiences. Among the most salient influences on my interviewees' experiences was the role of religion in their family, their social support networks, and their degree of awareness of feminist ideology and activism. I draw on Dorothy Smith's (1987) standpoint theory as a framework guiding this research, in particular, the notion that women's experiences should speak for themselves rather than be subject to others' interpretations of them. Taken as a whole, my research findings indicate that, while abortion is an intimate personal experience, the social and cultural context shaping that experience provides a common framework for women in making sense of their particular experience.