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Frenkel, R.S. (1992). An Unexpected Abortion Controversy: Some Observations from an Analytic Session of a Single Nonpregnant Woman. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 1(4):583-599.

(1992). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 1(4):583-599

An Unexpected Abortion Controversy: Some Observations from an Analytic Session of a Single Nonpregnant Woman

Rhoda S. Frenkel, M.D.

A single, detailed analytic session of an active feminist, who unexpectedly found herself in an intrapsychic combat over a woman's right to abortion is described. This young, single, nonpregnant, nulliparous woman had been in analysis for many years. Following a calm period in her life, a crisis developed when, as a member of a women's advocacy group, she tried to write a letter supporting the prochoice policies of a local hospital. In the weekend preceding the session, her agitation increased as she consciously struggled with her wish to write the letter and her fear of physical reprisals. During her next analytic hour she recognized that her manifest controversy arose from multiple intermingled unconscious fantasies resulting from conflicting childhood wishes from each phase of her development. The strength of these fantasies in disrupting her behavior, thought processes and physiological functioning was dramatic. Initially uncharacteristically disheveled, pale, and mentally confused, she began her session complaining of insomnia, anorexia, and searing self-contempt at her paralysis to act on her convictions. As the patient gained insight into the origins of her conflict, the symptoms reversed during the hour. While oedipal concerns appeared first, preoedipal wishes and fears seemed equally important. Significantly, the patient ended the session describing her guilt over her fantasy that, as an only child, her wishes had physically damaged her mother, preventing and possibly aborting the birth of siblings. Although speculative, the patient's intrapsychic conflicts mirror aspects of the current national debate about abortion.

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