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43 Million Women Aren’t “Immoral” Outliers: When It Comes To Abortion, “Stigma” Is Just Another Word for Discrimination

Posted by Social Media Intern Michelle Auster

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Abortion is accessible and legal in many places around the world — millions upon millions of women choose it every year. Yet there’s nowhere in the world today where choosing to have an abortion is stigma-free. The research on abortion stigma — along with its causes and impact on women’s lives — is still young, but undeniably confirms that it is a significant detriment to women’s health and survival. Leila Hessini at RH Reality Check writes that the stigma faced by women seeking abortions can be the largest hurdle they have to overcome to access care. It treats them like outliers and outcasts, when in reality, it’s incredibly common for women to choose abortions. With around 43 million women choosing abortion every year, Hessini writes:

“…if all the women in the world who have had an abortion [lived] together in one country…it would be the third most populous country in the world. Think about the level of discrimination against a group so large.”

This kind of stigma may deter women from making a safe and well-informed decision, pushing them to make choices they would not have otherwise. This is yet another reason why the fight for reproductive justice is happening now and must continue. We can’t stop fighting until abortion stigma is removed and women are respected for making their own decisions, not shamed.

So where do we start? Well, the 1 in 3 Campaign is one organization which works to eliminate stigma surrounding a woman’s right to choose, operating a campaign based on the statistic that 1 in 3 women will choose to have an abortion at some point in her life. The honest likelihood is that you know someone who has had, or will have an abortion, and it should not be thought of as shameful or taboo when in actuality, it is a very common experience many women face at some point in their lives. It is not an easy choice, and women should be encouraged to be proud of their strength in decision-making, not put down for choosing a common procedure. Part of fighting that stigma may lie in empowering women to speak out about abortion.

As the 1 in 3 Campaign web site states:

“Part of breaking the stigma is removing the silence and we are doing it loudly and clearly. By talking about abortion stigma we can recognize how it is created and perpetuated and what our individual roles and responsibilities are in working toward stigma-free language, concepts, and services.”

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