Here are 5 Reasons Why We Should Talk About Surgical Abortion Stigma

Here are 5 Reasons Why We Should Talk About Surgical Abortion Stigma

By the safe2choose counseling team

“Stigma feeds silence, and silence feeds myths. Myths that misinform, mislead, and further stigmatize. It’s a vicious and harmful circle that we need to break” [1].

Anyone seeking safe abortion counseling and information about medical and surgical abortion can access these services free of charge on safe2choose.org.

Our team of female counselors is here to support people all over the world who may need abortion information and services.

For most people, abortion has negative connotations. This is due to the fact that society has reinforced the stigma around the process and nature of surgical abortion. 

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary describes stigma as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something[2].

1. Surgical abortion stigma has created a culture of silence.

Abortion stigma has promoted negative ideas about the procedure, creating a culture of silence and a lack of knowledge about the medical treatments and their safety. 

In order to deconstruct this stigma, we share reliable information about what surgical abortion is, the myths around it, and the importance of language in addressing abortion stigma. At safe2choose, we support our users in making informed decisions.

A safe and secure surgical abortion is any abortion procedure performed by a trained clinician, within a clinical setting. It encompasses all types of vacuum aspiration and dilatation and evacuation methods. 

There are several safe surgical abortion methods that you can choose from; it depends on your geographic context, the gestational age of your pregnancy, and your preferences.

Unfortunately, these methods have been associated with different myths and misconceptions. Miscomprehension of the procedure has become a barrier to access to accurate information and services. 

Without awareness of safe abortion options, many people will choose not to seek medical assistance, even when it’s an emergency.

2. Abortion stigma affects women and girls, abortion providers, reproductive rights advocates, and communities. 

Although abortion is a common experience around the world, it is still largely stigmatized. Negative attitudes and beliefs about abortion may act as barriers to accessing safe services and can make it difficult for people to talk about their experiences of abortion [3].

  • Manual Vacuum Aspiration (MVA) is a form of uterine aspiration and is typically used up to 10-14 weeks’ gestation [4].
  • Electric Vacuum Aspiration (EVA) is a form of uterine aspiration and is often used up to 10-15 weeks’ gestation.
  • Dilation and evacuation (D&E) methods are commonly used beyond 14 weeks’ gestation.
  • Induction abortion is typically done for pregnancies beyond 16 weeks’ gestation.
  • Dilation and Curettage (D&C) is an outdated method of abortion and has largely been replaced by methods of uterine aspiration (MVA/EVA) and dilation and evacuation (D&E).

3. There is a rising number of untruths/myths surrounding surgical abortion.

From infertility to the length of the procedures and post-abortion care, there is a rising number of myths associated with the subject.

Myth: “An abortion will lead to infertility.” 

Fact: Following a surgical or medical abortion with pills, you will usually recover your fertility within 10 days.

Myth: “You will spend several days in the clinic after having a surgical abortion.”

Fact: It takes between 15–30 minutes.

Myth: “A surgical abortion is a high-risk treatment.”

Fact: When performed by a health professional, an abortion is safer than giving birth.

Myth: “Having a surgical abortion will give you a big scar.”

Fact: It doesn´t require any cutting, so you won’t have any scars.

Myth: “The doctor will use a big knife to end the pregnancy.”

Fact: There are several safe methods of the surgical procedure that you can choose from and none of them are performed with a knife. The most common are MVA, which is performed with an Ipas, and EVA, which is carried out with an electrical machine [5].

4. Surgical abortions have often been inappropriately associated with long procedures, full anesthesia, and high costs and risks.

Beyond the myths and misconceptions, there is the lingering stigma surrounding abortions in general and surgical abortions in particular. As languages transform over time and across cultures, anti-abortion groups have developed different ways to shift abortion terms from their original meaning [6]. Surgical abortion stigma is continually perpetuated in many different contexts, including in the media, which sometimes illustrates the abortion experience through a biased lens. 

In general, it’s not even about abortion itself. Let’s take a look at the word “surgical” [7].

According to Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, the word “surgical” could be misleading—the procedure doesn’t typically require cutting or suturing of any kind. To more accurately describe this type of abortion, many health-care providers have adopted the term “procedural abortion[8] or “in-clinic abortion.” 

In addition, the abortion community has chosen to differentiate between “surgical” and “vacuum” abortions. For instance, when using the term “vacuum abortion,” it refers to the suction aspect of the procedure, which is less invasive. At the end of the day, both “vacuum” and “surgical” are part of the in-clinic procedure terms for abortions. 

5. Surgical abortion is a safe and 99% effective method for elective abortion or management of miscarriage.

Surgical abortion is usually performed in a clinic or hospital by a trained health-care provider [9]. To find out more about surgical abortion, visit our Web site [10].

While some choose not to use the word “surgical” abortion as a way to prevent stigma, we continue to use both the terms “surgical” and “in-clinic” abortion, not to promote restrictive and stigmatizing usage of abortion language, but as a way to remain transparent

We are a global online platform that offers abortion counseling for people around the world, beyond borders and cultures. Through neutral language, we remain open and supportive of all the stories that we share with people around the world.  

By providing accurate information about abortion, we at safe2choose.org hope it lessens the stigma in the media and the daily conversations, while ultimately leading to more awareness and knowledge about abortion worldwide.

At safe2choose.org, we aim to inform you in the best possible way so you can make medically based and informed decisions about your abortions. 

Abortion counseling services are available in several languages, including Hindi, Kiswahili, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Wolof, and English. You can also always have a one-on-one chat with a counselor through the live chat section of the Web site [11], or send an e-mail via info@safe2choose.org

safe2choose also welcome s users to visit our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok pages to learn more about our work.


Sources

[1] “Smash Abortion Stigma.” Marie Stopes,www.mariestopes.org/smash-abortion-stigma/. Accessed September 2020.

[2] Freedman, Lori.“Abortion Stigma – What is it, and how does it affect women’s health?” ANSIRH and Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, www.innovating-education.org/cms/assets/uploads/2016/02/Week1FreedmanStigma.pdf. Accessed September 2020.

[3] “Tackling Abortion Stigma.” IPPFwww.ippf.org/our-approach/programmes/tackling-abortion-stigma. Accessed September 2020.

[4][5] “Guide to a Safe Manual Vacuum Aspiration Abortion (MVA).” Safe2choosesafe2choose.org/manual-vacuum-aspiration-mva-procedure/. Accessed September 2020.

[6] [7][8] Mahone, Regina. “Notes on Language: Why We Stopped Using ‘Surgical Abortion’ at Rewire.News.” Rewire News, 2020rewire.news/article/2020/04/16/notes-language-stopped-using-surgical-abortion/. Accessed September 2020.

[9][10][11] “Types of Surgical Abortion.” safe2choosesafe2choose.org/types-of-surgical-abortion/. Accessed September 2020.

We are staying available to support you with your abortion during COVID-19.

We are closely monitoring the situation of coronavirus globally and will keep updating our information and services.

We advise our readers to:

  1. Read our latest blog post on abortion and COVID-19
  2. Follow WHO safety guidelines on COVID-19
  3. Contact our counselors