Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Altmaier, Elizabeth

Second Advisor

Schuh, Kathy

First Committee Member

Ali, Saba

Second Committee Member

Westefeld, John

Third Committee Member

Saftlas, Audrey


Because Latinos are the largest, fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the U.S., learning more about their sexual and reproductive experiences and decision-making processes is important. Importantly, although sexuality and abortion are stigmatized in many Latino cultures and conservative religious beliefs specifically oppose abortion, Latinas have the highest birth rates in the U.S. and an estimated one in four pregnancies to Latina women are terminated (Jones, Darroch, &Henshaw, 2002; Jones, Finer, &Singh, 2010). Consequently, nuanced exploration of contradictions in reproductive behaviors and cultural and religious values is critical to supporting women's health and well-being. Seeking to advance the scholarship on the lived experiences of women who undergo elective abortion, this dissertation used Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis and a cultural and religious lens to explore the decision-making processes and phenomenological experiences of four young Mexican-American women who elected to terminate their first pregnancy. Results indicated that the women in this study believed abortion was unique, and more difficult for Mexican-American (and other Latina) women, given cultural and religious norms that specifically prohibit abortion and simultaneously prioritize sexual purity, responsibility, and motherhood for women. The complexity and difficulty inherent in navigating overlapping and oftentimes contradictory sociocultural and religious values are discussed as they relate to the participants' abortion decision and experience. The manuscript concludes with strengths and limitations of the present study, suggestions for future research, and implications for psychologists.

Keywords: Mexican, Latina, Abortion, Reproductive Health

Public Abstract

Latinos are the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in the US. Although sexuality and abortion are stigmatized in many Latino cultures and conservative religious beliefs specifically oppose abortion, Latinos have the highest birth rate in the US and approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies to Latina women are terminated. My dissertation is a qualitative study that explores the experiences of a group of young Mexican-American women who have a history of elective abortion, with the hope of better understanding how women make sense of, and cope with, reproductive decisions that may violate their personal, familial, cultural, and/or religious values. I am hopeful that the findings of this study will assist health providers and mental health practitioners by allowing them to better understand and appropriately support Mexican- American and other Latina women at all stages of their reproductive lives.


publicabstract, Abortion, Latina, Mexican, Psychological Well-being, Reproductive Health


x, 252 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 232-252).


Copyright 2015 Lauren Beth Welter