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Effect of Political Ideology, Femininity, and Gender on Abortion Stigma

Rym Yousfi, Dept. of Psychology, Emily Beatty, and Allison Patev and Chelsie Dunn, Dept. of Psychology Graduate Students, with Dr. Kristina Hood, Dept. of Psychology

Abortion stigma is a negative characteristic attributed to individuals who terminate a pregnancy that marks them as inferior to social ideals of womanhood (Kumar et al, 2009). One factor influencing abortion stigma is political ideology. Conservative individuals display more opposition to abortion and hold more abortion stigmatizing attitudes, when compared to their liberal counterparts (Bessett et al, 2015). Further, individuals’ gender may impact endorsement of these stigmatizing attitudes towards individuals who have had an abortion. Women have less stigma likely due to the fact that they could need to have an abortion (Patev, Hood, & Hall, 2019). Although gender seems to predict abortion stigma, it is unclear how individuals’ endorsement of traditional feminine characteristics may relate to abortion stigma, independent of gender. Abortion violates fundamental entities of womanhood, such as being a nurturing mother and being sexually pure (Kumar et al, 2009). Feminine ideals indicate that women should not have control over their own reproduction and sexuality, leading to increased stigmatizing attitudes towards women who have an abortion (Norris et al, 2011). Therefore, the endorsement of traditional feminine ideals may lead to increased abortion stigma, regardless of political ideology or gender. Limited study has examined the relationship between feminine characteristics and abortion stigma. Better understanding abortion stigma is essential; as, research has shown that stigmatizing attitudes can greatly affect the health of individuals who have had an abortion (Major & Gramzow, 1999; O’Donnell et al., 2018). The current study sought to determine the effect of femininity on abortion stigmatizing attitudes, beyond the effects of political ideology and gender. We initially projected that individuals with more traditional feminine values would hold more abortion stigma.

Participants (N= 305) were recruited via Amazon Mechanical Turk and completed an online survey. The survey included the Stigmatizing Attitudes, Beliefs, and Actions Scale (Shellenberg et al., 2014) to assess abortion stigma, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence et al., 1974) to assess femininity, one item assessing gender (i.e., men coded as 1 and women coded as 2), and one item assessing political ideology (e.g., lower scores indicate conservative ideology). A hierarchical regression was conducted to determine how individuals’ femininity impacts abortion stigma, beyond the effects of gender and political ideology. Political ideology was entered in the first step, and was significant,b= -.54, SE= .28, p< .001, with more of a conservative ideology related to increased abortion stigma. Political ideology accounted for 29.1% of the variability in abortion stigma. Gender was entered in the second step, controlling for political ideology, and was found to be significant, b = -.11, SE= 1.29,p= .03, with women holding less stigma than men. Gender accounted for an additional 1.1% of the variability in abortion stigma, beyond the effects of political ideology. Finally, femininity was added into the third step, controlling for gender and political ideology, and significantly predicted abortion stigma, b = -.11, SE= .16, p= .03, and accounted for an additional 1.0% of the variance in abortion stigma. However, this finding was not in the predicted direction. We found a negative relationship, indicating that individuals with more femininity held less abortion stigma. This is counter to our original prediction, where we projected that individuals with more traditional feminine characteristics would hold more abortion stigma.

These findings extend on previous work determining factors that predict abortion stigma. Having a better understanding of these factors combined influence will aid in decreasing abortion stigma. These results could help to create educational programs on sexual and reproductive health that can reduce abortion stigma and bias, and ultimately could lead to reducing negative health outcomes for individuals who have had an abortion.

Publication Date


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Chelsea D. Williams, Ph.D.


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


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Effect of Political Ideology, Femininity, and Gender on Abortion Stigma