Abstract of Catch 22: The Perception of the Abortion Pill (2023)


This study uncovers the psychological dynamics that drive women`s decisions about choosing parenthood or abortion, and–if choosing abortion–deciding between a chemical, abortion-pill process or surgical procedure-technique for pregnancy termination. The objective is to: Define what strategic messages can be developed to reduce the number of women who choose abortion and, in particular, chemical abortion, by understanding how they view them as options. A second objective was to: Define perceptions of the abortion pill. 


One-on-one interviewing was used with a group of 37 participants in Orlando, Chicago, Seattle, and Memphis. Participants varied in racial background and were divided into three age groups: 

18-22, 23-27, and 28-34, with 4-5 participants from each group per city. All respondents were screened with a pre-interview survey to capture those with true “middle” ground positions, with none of them being overtly pro­-choice or pro-life. 

The interview explored women’s perceptions of the Abortion Pill (AP): how it works, and how they feel about it, and also included test probes regarding Abortion Pill Reversal and the idea that the AP could be freely distributed and non-regulated. All respondents demonstrated some familiarity with the AP during recruiting. Of the women interviewed, ⅓ had experienced abortion, and three had specifically chosen chemical abortion.   


Almost all respondents felt, at first, that the chemical abortion pill process is “less invasive” than surgical abortion and involves less physical and emotional trauma to women. Interestingly, the women who had first-hand experience with chemical abortion believed the opposite– that the process was, in actuality, more mentally and physically traumatic. 

Very few were concerned about side effects or damage to their bodies resulting from a chemical abortion. All respondents expected the abortion pill to only be like a “heavy period,” but most were not certain how uncomfortable the results might be and for how long. Instead, they focused on the sense of increased privacy, less judgment, and hope in an alternative to a “scary” surgical procedure that chemical abortion offered. Few favored surgical abortion, citing not having to worry whether the process was “successful” as a potential benefit. 

Overall, respondents were under-informed about the realities of a chemical abortion, including, but not limited to the drugs used in the process to terminate a pregnancy and how said drugs worked, the number of pills used in a chemical abortion, and what the process would entail physically and emotionally. 

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