Abortion Counseling: the Origins, Crisis, and Attempts at Resurgence of a New Occupational Role



This study is a history of the development and subsequent resurgence of the occupational role of abortion counseling, a role that initially emerged in the early 1970s, before Roe v. Wade. This research is guided, in theoretical terms, by the approach to the study of occupations associated with the Chicago School of sociology and in particular by the work of Everett Hughes, who argued persuasively that occupations, as well as individuals, have careers and can be fruitfully analyzed through this lens.

The purpose of this research is a study of the career of abortion counseling. More specifically, the aims are several: to recapture and document an important historical development in the field of abortion provision, namely the introduction of counseling as a key aspect of the procedure; to understand the political, legal and sociological factors that have led to quite significant challenges to this field, resulting in many instances in a decline in both the quality and quantity of counseling; and to document and analyze contemporary efforts to restore improved abortion counseling as a central component of abortion care.

This study will be carried out mainly through interviews with approximately 20 key informants who have played leadership roles in this field, either in the past and/or currently. Additionally, we will closely examine some of the key texts that have been produced by leaders in this field and note how they have changed over time.

The ultimate intent of this proposed research is to help inform the abortion-providing community—and in particular those who may have entered this world more recently—of the historical background of counseling, and to provide a context which will help providers to reclaim still relevant aspects of quality counseling in a very different political era.