When someone asks me what women who have abortions are like, I ask them what one in three women are like. There is so much stigma attached to abortion – from the procedure itself to those who perform it to those who elect to undergo it – that it can feel safer to be silent than to advocate the truth.
The truth is: one in three females in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. Females of all ages, races, ethnicities, classes, genders, sexualities, of different religions, traditions, norms, values, ethics, and moral compasses face unintended pregnancies every single day.
Now, I’ve had much first-hand experience emotionally consoling females who are seeking abortion services, as Planned Parenthood requires patients to undergo an education and informed consent process before the procedure. During this time, the first question I ask the patient if she is “firm and clear” in her decision, and if she is being “coerced in any way.” This often prompts an emotional whirlwind as the patient tries to justify her choice, and explain away the stigma. She is often convinced that she is alone in her decision and that if anyone else in her life knew, she would be a target for scrutiny. Her nerves are often pacified as I explain how likely it is that females all around her have also had abortions – they just don’t talk about them.
I can’t help but find myself so frustrated by the shame-induced gag order that choice-opponents have papier-mâchéd all over the truth about abortion and those who undergo it. It’s time to rip down the propaganda for the sake of autonomy. It’s time to trample stigma. It’s time to take back the real experiences of abortion:
- One in three U.S. females will have an abortion by age 45.
- Those who decide to terminate are from all walks of life – yes, even the anti-choice protesters that picket outside my work place have abortions.
- Abortion is not irresponsible.
- Surgical abortion is a safe outpatient procedure that lasts only 5-10 minutes.
- The most common emotion patients report after abortion is relief.
- For many patients, abortion is the best choice for their lives and their family.
I was at a family planning conference recently, and a woman stood up and said we need a campaign like It Gets Better for abortion to raise awareness and decrease stigma. We need speak-out videos where people who have had abortions are willing to illuminate the other side: how their abortion did not ruin their life.
So, one in three of you, will you stand against stigma and stereotyping?