A critical feminist discursive analysis of dynamics shaping abortion in Canada: Implications for nursing.


  • Margaret Lebold 416-389-8148
  • Judith A. MacDonnell




abortion access, critical feminist, motherhood, critical discourses, Mifegymiso, Literature review


The advent of “the abortion pill” (Mifegymiso) in 2015 has shaped the contemporary context of access to abortion in Canada. In this paper, we highlight findings of a literature review that uses a gender and intersectional lens and critical discourse analysis to explore contemporary abortion access and implications for nursing. The discursive dynamics influencing nurses’ understandings of abortion, that is, the contexts in which some discourses are privileged over others yet often operate at the unconscious level to influence everyday knowledge and practices, are important to discern to work towards social justice goals. Findings suggest that normative and contradictory features of discourses such as women’s health, motherhood, and abortion access are relevant. Given the relative silence of abortion in nursing literature and prevailing gender normativity in nursing, there are compelling reasons to apply a critical feminist lens to deepen nurses’ understandings and critical reflection about abortion. There are implications for current education, research, and nursing practice. 


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Author Biographies

Margaret Lebold, 416-389-8148

Margaret Lebold, RN, BA, MScN is a Public Health Nurse. Her research interests are in reproductive health, gender, social determinants of health, and gender care economies. Her 2019 MScN thesis was York University's School of Nursing's nominated thesis for the Graduate Student Master's thesis award. She enjoys living in the suburbs, west of Toronto, and tending to her urban patio garden.

Judith A. MacDonnell

Judith MacDonnell, RN PhD, is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at York University. She is also Associate Dean for Students in the Faculty of Health. Her PhD studies in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education with a Collaborative Program in Women's Studies were grounded in her practice as a public health nurse. She has been involved in community based research focused on access and equity with diverse 2SLGBTQ!+ community, and racialized immigrant women. Her research has explored health care providers’ and communities’ experiences of engaging in activism and participatory policy processes that have organizational and system level change in the interests of promoting health and wellbeing in workplaces and communities. She was a co-founder of the Rainbow Nursing Interest Group of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.


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How to Cite

Lebold, M., & MacDonnell, J. (2020). A critical feminist discursive analysis of dynamics shaping abortion in Canada: Implications for nursing. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 2(2), 76–91. https://doi.org/10.25071/2291-5796.76