Stigma and speaking out

I have posted my personal unplanned pregnancy story on abortiongang.org. Since I had an abortion last year I have been working hard to contribute to the erosion of stigma around abortion so that it can be discussed and so that women who are faced with unplanned pregnancy don’t feel more overwhelmed than the situation causes in itself.

Abortion is a last resort decision and I am a loud advocate of contraception and comprehensive age-appropriate sex and relationship education. But if women are faced with a situation where abortion is the best choice out of all the hard options, then they should not feel that they have a dirty, horrible secret they need to carry for the rest of their lives. Of course, if women don’t want to talk about it, that is their personal decision, however women should not be made to feel that they can’t talk about it if they want to.

Abortion stigma marginalises people’s experiences – 1 in 3 pregnancies will end in abortion – this is a large number, however often when women are experiencing abortion and the decision-making process they feel alone and as though no-one else makes the decision to abort a pregnancy. My experiences of working with people actively trying to advance the cause of women’s rights is that even their actions can cause the perpetuation of stigma surrounding abortion. It is so ingrained and difficult to breakdown. The continuation of the polarisation of discourse around abortion – either pro-choice and denying the difficulty that can come with decision-making, or anti-choice and painting the decision as always difficult and damaging for the woman – is not helping to allow women the space in the middle to speak about their lived experiences.

I am happy I can speak about mine, however I know some pro-choice activists may not like the admission that the decision to terminate a pregnancy can be an emotionally difficult time. But it is so necessary and important that we have these hard discussions that give life to the real story of abortion. It makes the pro-choice movement truly feminist – naming that which we live as women, breaking the silence, and allowing all experiences to be validated and included in feminism. This is how feminism has tried to include women of colour, queer women, women with disabilities and so many other identities which were once marginalised from the second wave of feminism. It is the driving force behind the movement to include trans* identities in feminism. There is still a long way to go, however moving to include difficult abortion stories is part of the expansion of feminism to be a more inclusive project.

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