Women who are facing the decision to have an abortions can sometimes feel extremely isolated. The primary reason for this is the stigma many women face should they admit to having an abortion. certainly, the shaming by anti-choice groups who call these women murderers cannot help. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to be condemned in this way, especially for seeking a medical service that should be freely available.
Despite the efforts by anti-choice campaigners, abortion is quite common among American women. According to the Guttmacher Institute,
Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
While the campaigners have not succeeded in ending abortion, they continue to have a large impact on the stigma women face.
For example, a Manhattan women has had her abortion used against her in a custody battle in an attempt to declare her an unfit parent, and an US politician was called a ‘baby killer’ after she opened up about her experience of ending an untenable pregnancy
In an effort to end the isolation that many women feel because so many are afraid to admit to their decision, Advocates for Youth has initiated the 1 in 3 Campaign. This campaign is so named because 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion during their lifetime, and the silence is hurting these women.
“We need to have a conversation about abortion that is personal,” Deb Hauser, the executive director of Advocates for Youth, explained in a statement. “We are facing unprecedented cultural and legislative attacks on our rights. We must speak up about the need for these services. By sharing our stories — of students, moms, young professionals — we can change the conversation around abortion care.”
Indeed, many women’s health advocates believe that abortion stigma is directly related to the mounting attacks on women’s right to choose. An unprecedented number of abortion restrictions have been enacted over the past several years, and it often seems like the nation is regressing on this issue even after four decades under Roe v. Wade. Abortion stigma impacts the way that society talks about the procedure, and ultimately the way that politicians legislate it. A greater number of women sharing their personal experiences with abortion could help slowly reverse this dynamic, in a similar way that conservative lawmakers’ personal connections with LGBT individuals have helped encourage a shift toward more pro-equality policies.
As part of 1 in 3 Action Week, the organization is asking women to sign a pledge “to speak out against the shaming of women who have had an abortion.” It will be holding a live Facebook chat this Thursday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m. (EST). The group has also published a compilation of women’s abortion stories, which can be read for free online or purchased in paperback.
The thinking here is that women would not feel so shamed and isolated if a larger number of women were open about their experiences. If the anti-abortion campaigners knew how many of their family members, friends, and neighbours have had abortions, they might think twice before condemning them.
I am also aware that a large number of women might face severe consequences if their experiences were known. Your decision to speak out to help others must be tempered by the awareness of the potential repercussions to yourself. I wish it were otherwise, but it is not.
Over the years, people close to me have had abortions, but those are their stories to tell, not mine. If you are able to speak out, please do, and help end the stigma.