Since 1978, women have been granted legal rights to self-determined abortion, from which the idea of women’s right to choose achieves its victory in the current Norwegian abortion law. Behind this notion of choice lies an assumption that perceives women as subjects of choice who should personally decide whether or not having an abortion would be the proper way to overcome difficult decisions on their pregnancies. Women’s right to choose is celebrated as an ideal concept in consultation services for women who face difficult decisions on whether or not to have an abortion. Counselors and health workers I interviewed used the notion of women’s right to choose to describe the professionalism of their work; that is, to create distance from a woman’s decision-making process. By employing engaged listening to collect ethnographic data, this study explores limitations encountered with the idea of women’s right to choose as applied to care practices for women who are uncertain about their pregnancies. This inquiry examines care relations formed under conditions where the notion of individual choice is not ideal in practice. This study shows how individual choices are socially bound. Women’s status as subject of choice is not predetermined but enacted through emotional labor performed by healthcare professionals, which could affect clients’ openness and self-efficacy to enact a choice. Emotional labor challenges the claim of neutrality which was described as being emotionally detached from clients, as emotion itself is often deemed insignificant for making rational decisions.

Bahasa Abstract

Sejak 1978, undang-undang aborsi di Norwegia melegalkan aborsi berdasarkan permintaan maksimal dalam dua minggu pertama kehamilan. Legalitas ini menandai kemenangan atas gagasan “hak perempuan untuk memilih” (women’s right to choose). Hak perempuan untuk memilih dalam konteks aborsi dianggap ideal dalam layanan konsultasi untuk perempuan yang mengalami kesulitan memilih antara melanjutkan kehamilan atau aborsi. Perempuan dianggap sebagai subjek pilihan yang selayaknya memutuskan sendiri apakah aborsi merupakan cara yang tepat untuk mengatasi kesulitan kehamilan yang tidak diinginkan. Wacana “hak perempuan untuk memilih” secara umum diterima oleh tenaga kesehatan profesional yang saya jumpai. Wacana itu digunakan untuk mendeskripsikan kerja profesional mereka, yakni dengan menciptakan jarak dari proses pengambilan keputusan klien yang mereka tangani. Dengan menerapkan engaged listening dalam proses pengumpulan data etnografis, penelitian ini mengeksplorasi keterbatasan “hak perempuan untuk memilih” yang diterapkan pada praktik pelayanan konsultasi untuk perempuan yang mengalami kesulitan memilih antara melanjutkan kehamilan atau aborsi. Dengan mengeksplorasi kondisi “hak perempuan untuk memilih” yang tidak ideal dalam praktiknya, penelitian ini berupaya menunjukkan relasi yang terbentuk antara klien dan tenaga kesehatan profesional yang membantu klien membuat pilihan. Penelitian ini menunjukkan bagaimana pilihan individu terikat secara sosial dan perempuan sebagai subjek pilihan dibentuk melalui praktik relasional yang melibatkan emotional labor yang dilakukan tenaga kesehatan profesional. Emotional labor memengaruhi keterbukaan klien dan kemampuan membuat keputusan sendiri. Emotional labor kontradiktif dengan klaim terhadap netralitas yang diterjemahkan sebagai tidak terlibat secara emosional dengan klien, emosi cenderung dianggap sebagai elemen yang tidak bernilai untuk membuat keputusan rasional.


Aastbury-Ward, E., et al. 2012. Stigma, abortion, and disclosure–findings from a qualitative study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine 9, no. 12: 3137–3147. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02604.x

Askola, H. 2017. Dropping the ball or holding the line? Challenges to abortion laws in the Nordic countries. Women’s Studies International Forum 66: 25–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2017.11.010

Brown, H. 2010. If we sympathise them, they’ll relax: Fear/respect and medical care in a Kenyan hospital. Medische Antropologie 22, no. 1: 125–142. Retrieved from http://www.netph.sgul.ac.uk/training-materials/medical-anthropometry-workshop-izmir-dec-2013/brown_2010.pdf

Da Silva, A.B. 2009. How Christian Norms Can Have an Impact on Bioethics in a Pluralist and Democratic Europe: A Scandinavian Perspective. Christian Bioethics 15, no. 1: 54–73. doi:10.1093/cb/cbp004

Den Norske Kirke. 2021. Biskoper advarer mot abort som valgkampsak. Den Norske Kirke. https://kirken.no/nb-NO/om-kirken/aktuelt/biskoper%20advarer%20mot%20abort%20som%20valgkampsak/

Driessen, A. 2018. Sociomaterial Will-Work: Aligning Daily Wanting in Dutch Dementia Care. In Care in Health Care: Reflections on Theory and Practice, edited by Franziska Krause & Joachim Boldt, 111–134. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Eriksen, T.H. 2013. Immigration and National Identity in Norway. Retrieved from https://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/TCM-Norwaycasestudy.pdf

Forsey, M. G. 2010. Ethnography as Participant Listening. Ethnography 11, no. 4: 558–572. https://doi.org/10.1177/1466138110372587

Freedman, L. & S. Isaacs. 1993. Human Rights and Reproductive Choice. Studies in Family Planning 24, no. 1: 18–30. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/2939211

Gaventa, J. & A. Cornwall. 2015. Power and Knowledge. In The SAGE Handbook of Action Research edited by Hilary Bradbury, 465-471. USA: Sage Publications Ltd

Harbers, H., et al. 2002. Food Matters: Arguments for an Ethnography of Daily Care. Theory, Culture & Society 19, no. 5/6: 207–226

Hassenstab, C.M. 2014. Case Two: Reversals of Body-Law in Norway: Birth Control and Abortion. In Hassenstab, C.M. Body Law and the Body of Law, 202–260. De Gruyter

Helse Norge. 2019. Your right to medical care. In Health rights. Retrieved from https://www.helsenorge.no/en/health-rights-in-norway/health-care-rights/.

Helse Norge. 2020. Are you considering having an abortion?. In Sex og samliv. Retrieved from https://www.helsenorge.no/en/sex-og-samliv/information-for-anyone-considering-having-an-abortion/

Hochschild, A.R. 1983. The Managed Heart. USA: University of California Press.

Jagger, A. M. 1994. Abortion and a Woman’s Right to Decide. In Living with Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics, edited by A.M. Jaggar, 281–287. UK: Taylor & Francis.

Kimport, et al. 2011. Social Sources of Women’s Emotional Difficulty After Abortion: Lessons from Women’s Abortion Narratives. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 43, no. 2: 103–109. https://doi.org/10.1363/4310311

Kjelsvik, et al. 2018. Women’s experiences when unsure about whether or not to have an abortion in the first trimester. Health Care for Women International 39, no. 7: 784–807. https://doi.org/10.1080/07399332.2018.1465945

Krause, F. & J, Boldt (Eds.). 2018. Care in Healthcare: Reflections on theory and practice. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Lipp, A. 2011. Self-preservation in abortion care: a grounded theory study. Journal of Clinical Nursing 20: 892–900. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03462.x

Lottes, I. L. 2013. Sexual Rights: Meanings, Controversies, and Sexual Health Promotion. The Journal of Sex Research 50(3/4): 367–391. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42002065

Løkeland, M. 2004. Abortion: The Legal Right Has Been Won, But Not the Moral Right. Reproductive Health Matters 12, no. 24: 167–173. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0968-8080(04)24016-2

Løkeland, M. 2017. One Step Forward and Two Steps Back: Accessing Abortion in Norway. In A Fragmented Landscape: Abortion Governance and Protest Logics in Europe edited by De Zordo, S., Mishtal, J., & Anton, L., 187–206. New York: Berghahn Books

Lynöe, N. (2017). Is Healthcare Providers’ Value-Neutrality Depending on How Controversial a Medical Intervention Is? Analysis of 10 more or less controversial interventions. Clinical Ethics, 12, no. 3: 117–123. doi: 10.1177/1477750917704157

Markkola, P. & Naumann, I.K. 2014. Lutheranism and the Nordic Welfare States in Comparison. Journal of Church and State 56, no. 1: 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcs/cst133

Mc Queen, A. 1997. The Emotional Work of Caring, With a Focus on Gynecological Nursing. Journal of Clinical Nursing 6: 233–240.

Mikaelsson, L. 2009. Regional Approaches to Religion: Christianity in Norway. Religion 39: 117–125. doi:10.1016/j.religion.2009.01.013

Mol, A. 2006. Proving or Improving: On Health Care Research as a Form of Self-Reflection. Qualitative Health Research 16(3): 405-414. doi: 10.1177/1049732305285856

Mol, A. 2008. The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice. USA: Routledge.

Mol, A., I, Moser, J, Pols. (eds.). 2010. Care in Practice: On Tinkering in Clinics, Homes, and Farms. New York: Columbia University Press

Nicholson, J., et al. 2010. Termination of pregnancy services: experiences of gynecological nurses. Journal of Advanced Nursing 66, no. 10: 2245–2256. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2010.05363.x

Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality. 2016. The Rights of the Child in Norway [Report]. https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/0ada3bee46b54f498707f51bbc7d4b2c/barnekonvensjonen-engelsk-versjon-uu.pdf

Norwegian Ministry of Labor and Social Inclusion. 2022. The Norwegian Social Insurance Scheme [Brochure]. Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/contentassets/03b0e088c8f44a8793ed0c0781556b11/the-norwegian-social-insurance-scheme_2022.pdf

Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. 2014. Local Government in Norway [Brochure]. Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/globalassets/upload/kmd/komm/veiledninger_og_brosjyrer/local_government_in_norway_h-2313e.pdf

Paxson, H. 2002. Rationalizing Sex: Family Planning and the Making of Modern Lovers in Urban Greece. American Ethnologist 29, no. 2: 307–334. https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.2002.29.2.307.

Petchesky, R. 2000. Rights and Needs: Rethinking the Connections in Debates over Reproductive and Sexual Rights. Health and Human Rights 4, no. 2: 17–29. PMID: 10796968.

Pols, J. 2005. Enacting Appreciations: Beyond the Patient Perspective. Health Care Analysis 13, no. 3: 203–221.

Porter, E. 1994. Abortion Ethics: Rights and Responsibilities. Hypatia 9, no. 3: 66–87. www.jstor.org/stable/3810189.

Purcell, C., et al. 2017. The Changing Body Work of Abortion: a qualitative study of the experiences of health professionals. Sociology of Health and Illness 39, no. 1: 78–94.

Rothman, B. K. 1994. The Meanings of Choice in Reproductive Technology. In Living with Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics edited by A. M. Jaggar, 325–329. UK: Taylor & Francis.

Solberg, E. 2018. Grensen sorterings samfunnet. Erna Solbergs Blogg. Retrieved from https://erna.no/2018/10/19/grensen-mot-sorteringssamfunnet/

Statistics Norway. 2022. Church of Norway. Retrieved from https://www.ssb.no/en/kultur-og-fritid/religion-og-livssyn/statistikk/den-norske-kirke

Stenvoll, D. 2002. Norwegian Politics of Abortion: Perspectives, Arguments, and Values. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 4, no. 3: 287–304. https://doi.org/10.1080/13876980208412684

Sümer, S. & H, Eslen-Ziya. 2017. New Waves for Old Rights? Women’s Mobilization and Bodily Rights in Turkey and Norway. European Journal of Women’s Studies 24, no. 1: 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/1350506815619878

The Abortion Act. 1975. Abortion Law (LOV-1975-06-13-50). Lovdata. Retrieved from https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/1975-06-13-50/%C2%A77#%C2%A77.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 2004. Programme of Action: Adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 5–13 September 1994. Retrieved from https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/event-pdf/PoA_en.pdf

Tronto, J. C. 1993. Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care. UK: Routledge.

Twigg, J. 2000. Carework as a Form of Bodywork. Aging and Society 20, no. 4: 389–411. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X99007801

Wind, G. 2008. Negotiated Interactive Observation: Doing Fieldwork in Hospital Settings. Anthropology & Medicine 15, no. 2: 79–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470802127098

Wolkomir, M. & J, Powers. 2007. Helping Women and Protecting the Self: The Challenge of Emotional Labor in an Abortion Clinic. Qual Sociol 30: 153–169. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-006-9056-3