Evelyn Mahon, Catherine Conlon, Lucy Dillon, Women and crisis pregnancy : a report presented to the Department of Health and Children, Dublin, Stationery Office, 1998, 565
In June 1995, the Minister for Health, Michael Noonan, commissioned
this study on women and crisis pregnancy in Ireland. The study was
commissioned to identify the factors which contributed to the incidence
of unwanted pregnancy and those which resulted in abortion.
In this report, the decision making processes and the factors which
women consider when making decisions arising from crisis pregnancies
are analysed. The purpose of the research is to assist in the development
and planning of future health policy with a view to reducing the incidence
of abortion among Irish women. The format of the report is as
Chapter One sets the historical and social context in which crisis pregnancies
are located. It reviews changes in birthrates, and the changing
patterns of reproduction and marriage. It outlines the changes in
women’s role in society over time and shows the manner in which
motherhood has been modernised. The failure of state family policies
to keep pace with these changes in gender roles is discussed.
Chapter Two describes the methodology used in the study. The study
initially had to find a sample of women who had crisis pregnancies.
One group were immediately identifiable: those who were having abortions
in England, and they formed one sample. Women who were
planning on having their babies adopted formed a second sample and
we located them in homes run by voluntary organisations. The final
sample -- women with crisis pregnancies who planned to continue to
become mothers -- had to be located from within the general population
of pregnant women who were attending doctors, antenatal clinics
and gynaecologists. This sample was generated using a short questionnaire
which included a question on women’s initial response to their
pregnancy and from this over three hundred in-depth interviews were
conducted with women who had different responses to their pregnancies.
This report on Women and Crisis Pregnancy is based on the analysis of qualitative interviews conducted with: eighty eight women who
were having abortions, eleven women who were planning to have their
babies adopted and, thirty four women with crisis pregnancies who
were continuing the pregnancy to become mothers for the first time.
Chapter Three analyses the data collected from 2,053 questionnaires
completed by pregnant women who were attending for antenatal care.
These were gathered as part of the process of generating a sample of
pregnant women with crisis pregnancies. This data enabled us to generate
some estimates on the extent of crisis pregnancies and to see the
social parameters which help to construct a pregnancy as a crisis one.
Chapter Four examines contraceptive behaviour and fertility control
among all the sample of women with crisis pregnancies. It reviews
changes in family planning practices, and access to contraception. It
describes the factors which militated against their use of effective contraceptives
and which resulted in their unplanned pregnancies.
Chapter Five examines women’s access to, and use of crisis pregnancy
counselling agencies prior to going to England. While twenty nine
chose self-referral and did not consult anyone in Ireland, twenty one
had contact with doctors in Ireland and thirty four had contact with an
Irish based counselling agency. Women’s perceptions of counselling are
Chapter Six examines the decision making processes of women who
had abortions. It reviews the themes which framed their decision making:
social stigma, the combination of work and family lives, the optimum
conditions for childrearing and relationships with partners. It
describes the coping strategies used in going through with an abortion.
Chapter Seven describes the main influences on women’s decision to
continue their pregnancies and become birth mothers, and then have
their babies adopted. It examines the ways in which they rejected abortion
while not being able to embrace lone motherhood.
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