Access and Barriers

Abortion Stigma: Breaking the Silence

In the West, one in three women have an abortion. Not all of them talk about it. In the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa, both the number of abortions and the number of women who need abortions during their lives are not always accurately accounted for. One of the reasons is abortion stigma, which forces women to remains silent about the terminations — safe and unsafe — they’ve had.

Why this silence? Why this secrecy? Why this fear of talking about a medical procedure that so many women need during their lifetimes? Why are women taught to be ashamed of their bodies, their monthly period, their desires, their needs for contraception and abortion, and even of pregnancy unless pregnancy is desired by the society in which they live?

Abortion probably heads this list of “shame.” Unwanted pregnancy, the cause for abortion, follows closely. This month, ASAP will bring you a variety of blogs and media clips that unravel the culture of shame that has been built around a woman’s reproductive needs.

Ethicist Leslie Cannold talked about this cycle of shame at the TED talks at Canberra last year. She questions the culture of “shaming” a woman for a medical procedure that so many need and want. Here is her talk on the need to go beyond this shame, and ask ourselves if it really matters that a woman has had an abortion at some point in her life.


Saima’s Dilemma

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