Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Swedish Young Men's Lived Experiences of a Girlfriend's Early Induced Abortion

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Swedish Young Men's Lived Experiences of a Girlfriend's Early Induced Abortion

Article excerpt

Abortion rates worldwide suggest that a large number of young men ate in fact exposed to the experience of an abortion. This phenomenological hermeneutic study illuminates ten young men's experiences of the abortion process including the abortion itself. In view of their different cultural backgrounds and their stable or merely casual relationship with the girlfriend, their experiences are illuminated in four main themes as; having interrupted a life-giving process, having wished to relieve the girlfriend's pain, having struggled with feelings of helplessness, and standing up for made decisions. The interpreted whole is expressed as; a wish to compensate the girlfriend for her suffering and share with her the responsibility for the abortion. With a view to promoting gender equality in reproductive health the results are discussed in the light of relational ethics and contribute to reflections on current praxis in health-care settings.

Keywords: young men, lived experience, induced abortion, Sweden, relational ethics


Research on the impact of abortion on the lives of young men is limited, particularly when compared to the research conducted on its impact on the lives of young women or women in stable relationships with men (Coyle, 2007; Hallden, Christensson, & Olsson, 2005, 2009; Kero & Lalos, 2000; Kero, Lalos, Hogberg, & Jacobsson, 1999). In Sweden, a majority of young men have had sexual experiences by the time they leave secondary school at the age of 15-16 years (Ekstrand, 2008; Forsberg, 2006). The combination of the frequency of abortions in teenage girls (24 per 1000) and the numbers who undergo a second abortion (15%) (EpC, 2008:4) suggests that a large number of young men are in fact exposed to the experience of an abortion. Where young women's experiences are concerned, a Swedish study reveals an unexpected self-understanding of their fertility as well as a desire to be understood by trusted others and their partners (Hallden et al., 2005). Furthermore, an other study of the experiences of abortion reveals young women's ability to be responsible for their choices regarding their own welfare and other's well-being in a life-cycle perspective despite the pain inherent in taking the life of their own child-to-be (Hallden et al., 2009).

Moreover, young men are also marginalised in other contexts of reproduction, such as experiences of pregnancy confirmation and challenges in their transition to fatherhood (Draper, 2002; Kaila-Behm & Vehvilainen-Julkunen, 2000; Lindberg, Christensson, & Ohrling, 2005; Olsson, Sandman, & Jansson, 1996; St John, Cameron, & Mc Veigh, 2005). Research on men in stable relationships with women reveal contradictory feelings concerning abortion, such as anxiety, responsibility, guilt, relief, and grief (Coyle, 2007; Kero et al., 1999). It has been found that these feelings are common among women as well as men (Coyle). Kero et al. (1999) found that Swedish men motivated abortion on the basis of how they judged their own ability to be a good parent. Research by Reich and Brindis (2006) showed that men's sense of responsibility for abortion correlated with the extent to which they were included in the decision-making process.

One of the few studies on young men's experiences reveals fear of isolation when peers, parents and partners do not accept abortion, despite its legalised status. Disrupted relationships with girlfriends undergoing abortion could also lead to a sense of hopelessness toward the future (Poggenpoel & Myburgh, 2006). Research on seventeen-year-old Swedish boys' perceptions of abortion reveals further that adolescent fatherhood was considered to be a catastrophe, and that many young men were frustrated by not having the legal rights to influence the decision on abortion (Ekstrand, 2008). Some research implies that in situations where young men find it inappropriate to seek help from relatives or friends in the decision-making process it is important to offer them organisational and professional support (Holmberg & Wahlberg, 2000; Wahlberg, 2004). …

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