Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Cossman, Jeralynn S.

Committee Member

Kelly, Kimberly C.

Committee Member

Rader, Nicole E.

Committee Member

Bartkowski, John P.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology


Post-abortion support groups are a new sub-movement or strategy of the broader anti-abortion movement that provide support to women who understand their prior abortions as problematic. These groups construct abortion as a form of trauma that causes post-abortion syndrome (PAS), a broad array of negative mental health and behavioral problems similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Although these claims are not substantiated by empirical evidence, claims that abortion causes PAS are increasingly featured in the public domain to bolster national anti-abortion claims that abortion represents a public health issue. A majority of PAS support groups are offered by crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) affiliated with one of two national pregnancy resource centers whose approach to healing from abortion reflects the increased presence and influence of evangelical women in the CPC movement. The increased presence of evangelical women in the CPC movement is reflected in the growing influence of conservative Christian beliefs in the support services offered by CPCs in general and PAS groups specifically. This research examined a PAS group in Mississippi sponsored by an evangelical CPC affiliated with Care Net, a national pregnancy resource center, to understand the motivations of women who participate in a PAS group, how PAS group participation shapes participants’ understandings of abortion to conform to broader anti-abortion claims that abortion is a public health issue, and how PAS claims are diffused into the public domain. To discern the relationship between PAS groups and broader anti-abortion claims, I analyze state and national media coverage of the 2011 Mississippi political campaign in which voters overwhelmingly defeated a constitutional amendment to pass a personhood amendment to confer legal status to the fetus. Together these analyses show how evangelical groups are working through legislative and individual-level processes to shape the abortion debate and climate in contemporary American society.