Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Interdisciplinary Program


Jessica P. Miller

Second Committee Member

Kirsten Jacobson

Third Committee Member

Ann Schonberger


Abortion is an inimitable experience that poses a host of unique ethical and philosophical questions not generated by other medical procedures. In spite of a massive amount of literature discussing abortion, there is little theoretical work examining the relationship between abortion and informed consent. This is a problematic oversight because informed consent plays a prominent role in contemporary abortion practices. In an effort to address this lacuna, my dissertation explores the concept of informed consent as it functions within abortion discourse.

Informed consent and abortion are both interdisciplinary terms and thus a robust critique of their intersection requires an interdisciplinary analysis. Therefore, I critically track the concept of informed consent across four unique discourses: traditional informed consent literature, Supreme Court rulings on abortion regulations, state-sponsored informed consent materials distributed to women seeking an abortion, and women’s firstperson narratives. As a contribution to feminist and bioethics scholarship, I argue that informed consent is a deeply inadequate concept in the context of abortion. Importantly, however, the reasons for this inadequacy change relative to the discourse in question. ! Thus, Chapters One, Two, Three, and Four each take as their focus a distinct discursive engagement of informed consent. In Chapter Five, I confront a series of questions generated by my interdisciplinary survey.

In bridging the gaps between informed consent theory and abortion discourse, I demonstrate two important points. First, I illustrate how popular articulations of informed consent are ill-equipped to address the moral and medical issues particular to abortion. Secondly, I illuminate cases where the rhetoric of informed consent is, in fact, being used to undermine and jeopardize women’s reproductive autonomy. This dissertation concludes with a plea for a revised conception of informed consent within the abortion context, one that deploys the subjective standard of disclosure and recognizes the value of flexible dialogue between the woman and her abortion provider.


Interdisciplinary in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy