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Existential Experiences and Strategies in Relation to Induced Abortion: An Interview Study with 24 Swedish Women

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Summary Induced abortion is as common in religious as secular cultures, but interpretations and ways to handle abortion differ. This study focuses on existential aspects of abortion, in relation to a secularized context, through in-depth interviews with 24 Swedish women. Existential questions belonging to four areas were found: Life and Death, Meaning of Life, Morality, and Self-Image. Furthermore, four different existential strategies were found: (1) Detaching Strategies (creating distance to the pregnancy), (2) Meaning-Making Strategies (relating the abortion to one’s worldview), (3) Social Strategies (sharing the abortion with others), and (4) Symbolic Strategies (expressing the experience in bodily ways). Existential questions and strategies did not imply that the woman regretted her abortion. However, while some women easily processed existential questions, others seemed to be more at a loss. In a secularized country, where many people are unaccustomed to dealing with existential issues, greater existential competence among abortion personnel might thus be needed.

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