Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd

Second Supervisor

Dr Lekkie Hopkins


Spaces and opportunities for women to share, reflect upon and explore their personal experiences of abortion, are limited by a range of social judgments associated with having an abortion. This doctoral research project investigates how 23 diverse Australian women made sense of their abortion experiences, in ways that left them feeling better (or fine)1 about themselves and their decision. Within the study, a holistic approach to women’s experiences of abortion is adopted and a range of dimensions are explored: physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual. The phenomenologically-grounded research methodology employed in the study proceeded in two phases, designed to access the ways in which women generate meaning about their abortion experiences through stories and their bodily-felt senses. The first phase invited each woman to retell her abortion experiences and how she interpreted them, via an open-ended, semi-structured personal interview or an online survey/journal. The second phase included eight women from Phase I who returned to participate in an innovative Focusing and Art Process, designed to access each woman’s subjective bodily-felt sense of her abortion experiences. The findings show that women’s responses to abortion are varied and multi-layered. Participants had a range of ways of making sense of their abortion experiences, including: engaging with alternative discourses about abortion, ideological resistance and agency, developing personal symbolism and ritual, reviewing their existential beliefs and developing spiritual connections. Each of these had implications for how they felt about abortion and for how they lived their lives. Inviting women to connect with their bodily-felt experiences of abortion facilitated their access to a resourcefulness and a positivity that tends to be obscured through verbal accounts alone. By adopting a broader framework for abortion, which acknowledges bodily, existential and spiritual connection, women, as this study demonstrates, have the opportunity to develop their sense of what they value and what supports their growth.