Forced Silence: Abortion Stigma

Stigma is “an attribute that is deeply discrediting,” which results in a person being “reduced in our minds from a whole and usual person to a tained, discounted one.” (This according to Erving Goffman; see the slide set referenced below from Innovating Education.)

In American society, abortion care often operates within a narrative of shame, isolation and secrecy, stigmatizing those who access abortion care as well as those who provide it. Based on epidemiological data, we know that in the United States 1 in 4 women will have an abortion by the age of 45 and that 6 in 10 of those women already have children. However, abortion stigma results in a self-perpetuating cycle: people don’t discuss their abortions to avoid being shamed and stigmatized, which makes it seem that abortion is more rare and therefore aberrant, which reinforces the stigma. Many movements in recent years have focused on reducing stigma around abortion through story telling and public discourse on abortion care.

New to the term “abortion stigma”?

For all the TedX fans:

For a reminder that the decision to have an abortion does not need an explanation:

Reducing the Stigma Through Storytelling:

Destigmatization in the Media:

Understanding how stigma can lead to medical consequences:

How does abortion stigma impact abortion providers

To add to your reading list:

For a review of Scarlet A:

Interested in more of Lisa Harris’s work? 

*Unfortunately due to copyright issues, we cannot post the full text of these papers. We have linked to the abstract and if you are a student or have access otherwise to research databases, you should be able to access the full text through those channels.

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