Objectives: Abortion stigma is a phenomenon arising from beliefs that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable. Abortion stigma varies in how it is created, supported, perpetrated, and experienced depending various cultural factors. The present study strived to describe the lived experience of Irish women who experience stigma post-abortion from accounts by their psychotherapists. The focus was on how stigma is experienced by these women and the variety of systems that potentially influence that experience. Method: The present study was guided by hermeneutic phenomenological methods, including thematic phenomenological analysis. Nine Irish psychotherapists (eight female, one male) who were active practitioners and members of an accrediting Irish psychotherapy agency participated in face-to-face, in depth semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed at an individual and general level. Results: Responses yielded both unique and similar experiences of psychotherapists and their female clients. Four themes emerged from the data analysis process: Secrecy; Cultural Barriers: Breathing in Irish Culture and Irish Identity; Systems Working against Women (this theme contained three subthemes: Political/Governmental, Religious, and Interlinkage of religion and politics); and Personal is Professional. The themes and sub-themes were present in every participant’s narrative. Discussion: Women in Ireland uniquely experience abortion stigma due to a variety of factors that lead to internalized stigma. Abortion stigma can cause them to experience grief, guilt, and sadness in isolation and secrecy. Mental health professionals might best serve Irish women who are experiencing abortion stigma by increasing their awareness of its precipitating factors, including the unique effects growing up an in Irish culture can have on these women and on the practitioner’s ability to fully serve this population. Future researchers might directly investigate Irish women’s experiences of abortion stigma as well as the experiences of mental health professionals who serve them.
A Word, a Shadow, a Breath: A Phenomenological Investigation of Therapists' Perceptions of the Stigma Experienced by Women Residing in Ireland Who Have Had Abortions.
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