School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Vasti Holstun


abortion worker, bio-psycho-socio-spiritual effects, moral distress, moral injury, spirituality


Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to gain insight and understanding into the lived experiences of those who have worked in a medical facility or freestanding clinic providing abortion services and eventually chose to leave the industry due to moral distress. Two research questions are addressed in this study: What is the lived experience of former abortion workers who left the field due to moral distress both before and after their transition from the industry? And, What were (and are) the perceived bio-psycho-social-spiritual impacts of abortion work for those who ultimately left the field due to moral distress? A comprehensive review of the literature discusses abortion, the political landscape of abortion, abortion workers, moral ideology, moral distress, moral injury, forgiveness, influence of global meaning, and spirituality. Fourteen participants who are affiliated with an organization that assists individuals exit the abortion industry were interviewed for this study. Phenomenological hermeneutic theory was the method utilized to gather, explore and interpret the transcribed narratives given by the interviewees. Specifically, the computer software NVivo and van Manen’s six-step research paradigm were utilized to transcribe, analyze and interpret the data. Finally, themes emerging from the data that are presented in detail include Shifting View of Abortion: From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life, Memorable Experiences During Tenure in Abortion Industry, Difficult Work Environment, Bio-Psycho-Socio-Spiritual Conflict, and A Turning Point, and topics of discussion are Stigma of Abortion Work, Work Experiences and Environment, Bio-Psycho-Socio-Spiritual Effects, Aspects of Moral Distress and Moral Injury, and Steps toward Healing.

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