The influence of feminist abortion accompaniment on emotions related to abortion: A longitudinal observational study in Mexico

September 2022

The influence of feminist abortion accompaniment on emotions related to abortion: A longitudinal observational study in Mexico

Wollum A, S Garduño Huerta, López Uribe O, Garnsey C, Gaddis SM, Baum SE, Keefe-Oates B. SSM - Population Health. Sept 2022. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2022.101259

Emotions can reflect how individuals internalize identities, social roles, and broader power structures, including abortion stigma. Abortion accompaniment, in the form of logistical, informational, and emotional support offered by individuals and organizations, takes a person-centered, feminist, and rights-based approach.

We tested the extent to which abortion accompaniment may decrease negative and increase positive feelings an individual holds related to their abortion. Using observational longitudinal data collected between January 2017 and mid-2018, we compared negative and positive emotional responses to a personal abortion experience one month and six months following the abortion to emotions immediately prior to the abortion (“baseline”), among women travelling from outside of Mexico City to abortion clinics in Mexico City with and without support of the accompaniment organization, Fondo MARIA. We used doubly robust longitudinal mixed effects models with inverse probability weighting methods. At baseline, accompanied and unaccompanied participants experienced an average of 4.9 and 4.4 negative emotions out of eight respectively (i.e., anguish, nervousness, scared, anxious, sadness, guilt, anger, shame) and 1.7 and 1.9 positive emotions of out 4 respectively (happiness, calmness, decidedness, and relief). From our model results, women accompanied (n = 77) had larger decreases in negative feelings (p < .05) and larger increases in positive feelings (p < .01) toward their abortion compared to those who were not accompanied (n = 119) at six months.

These changes led the majority of accompanied respondents to have primarily positive feelings about their abortion by endline. Abortion accompaniment through Fondo MARIA in Mexico City was associated with a larger decrease in negative feelings, particularly those related to stigma, and a larger increase in positive feelings six months after abortion. Accompaniment's focus on person-centered support, self-determination, and autonomy may enable people seeking abortion to view their decision as one that is valid and legitimate, and resist the predominant stigmatizing narratives framing abortion as something that is transgressive.