Endorsement of Abortion: Comparative Ratings Across Contexts for Self versus Other

Jessica L. Couture, Sarah L. Sangster, Linzi E. Williamson, & Karen L. Lawson

In the context of abortion, women often turn to their male partner to participate in the decision-making process (Anglin, Amaral, & Edlund, 2010). There is some evidence that attitudes toward, and perspectives on, specific aspects of abortion may differ for men and women (Patel & Johns, 2009). The purpose of this study was to explore women and men’s attitudes and perspectives of abortion in a variety of contexts. An experimental design was employed in which 145 university students (104 women, 41 men) were randomly assigned to one of two conditions and asked to make judgments regarding the advisability of abortion across diverse situations.  Participants in the self-referent condition (n = 82) were asked to render judgments in reference to themselves, while those in the other-referent condition (n = 63) were asked to make judgments in reference to a generic ‘other’. A significant interaction emerged between Sex and Referent Group, F(1, 138) = 4.1, p = .05, ηp2 = .032 . Specifically, referent-group membership had no impact on men’s endorsement of abortion t(39) = .16, p = 87, but did have a significant impact on women's ratings whereby women were more endorsing of abortion for others (M = 2.7 SD = .91), than for themselves (M = 2.1 SD = .88), t(102) = 3.5, p = .001. Subsequent item analyses revealed that this pattern was evident for six of the 14 items. Given societal expectations regarding women and men’s appropriate parental roles, it is reasonable to speculate that gender differences would exist in the value attached to the parental role, and subsequently, in the choice made when the opportunity to become a parent versus terminate a pregnancy presents itself. Counsellors can use this information to maximize the extent to which they are facilitating autonomous decision-making.

This research was presented at the Society for Reproductive and Infant Psychology (SRIP) Annual Conference in Nottingham, UK on September 14, 2015.