Tell your abortion story to end the stigma

By Kylie Kiunguyu.

What it means to be pro-choice

The term pro-choice simply means that a person believes that all human beings should have the essential right to decide what they do with their body and when, with whom, and how they reproduce. It is a term that means that even though you may not agree with a person’s choices; you support their right to decide. A pro-choice person or “pro-choicer” supports reproductive rights and the full breadth of sexual and reproductive health care, which includes contraception AND access to safe abortion.

Whether a person chooses adoption or to end or continue a pregnancy, pro-choicers believe the choice should be respected and the state should not impose restrictions on anyone’s decision.

Why pro-choicers matter

Monitoring and ruling over a womxn’s womb negatively affects the basic rights, welfare, health, socio-economic prospects, and educational advancement of womxn and, therefore, of their children, family, and community.

Being pro-choice is an important worldview and in some cases a political stance. It is saying to the world that “women are equal actors and full participants in society and every born child is a wanted, loved, cared-for child” (Rewire News Group).

Including the well-being of children into the conversation is important because access to reproductive health care directly impacts the born and unborn.

Pro-choicers help to clarify the issues and bring the conversation back to the basics, which are

  • Womxn should have full rights over their bodies (including the right to decide whether or not to carry a fetus to birth); without this right, they do not have the same moral status or freedom as men.
  • The right to abortion should be part of a portfolio of pregnancy rights that enables womxn to make a truly free choice whether to end a pregnancy.
  • The right to abortion is vital for individual womxn to achieve full political, social, and economic equality with men.

End abortion stigma

The stigma that surrounds abortion can be both dangerous and isolating. Being unable to share one’s choice could mean missing out on safe and supported care and similarly not having an outlet to speak about one’s experience can mean another person falling into the same pitfalls. It follows that if we can’t talk about it openly and honestly without the fear of judgement and exclusion, then we leave womxn vulnerable to unsafe practices and situations.

Furthermore, the isolation can lead to adverse health consequences, including stress, depression, poor sleep and cardiovascular function, accelerated cognitive decline, and an impaired immune system.

Fear of stigma leads to silence and silence feeds misinformation, which further deepens stigma. It is a vicious cycle that can only end by womxn sharing their abortion stories and experiences surrounding their reproductive choices.

Talk about it and change the perception

According to the Guttmacher Institute, during the 2010–2014 period, an estimated 8.2 million induced abortions occurred each year in Africa – an approximately 4 million increase from previous years.

By this measure, abortion is common and in no way as extraordinary as society perceives it to be. By changing the culture of silence around abortion, we can empower womxn to share their personal stories and normalize these types of conversations.

These conversations also help dispel harmful myths and shake some of the outdated views that cause limitations to reproductive rights.

Sharing abortion stories dispels myths and helps circulate factual information challenges the stigma surrounding abortion provides support for womxn to act on their right to choose normalizes abortion leads to social and political change

How and where do we start?

Sharing personal abortion stories amongst family and friends can be a great first step. That said, finding a community that understands your experience and automatically empathizes is invaluable.

The stories shared in these groups can educate, help alleviate fear through knowing others have successfully done it, help give emotional support when going through the aftercare process and provide a platform to just commune with people who understand.

In summary, building community is important because

  • Through it, we find connection and form kinship with people who are similar to us;
  • We can find depth by asking questions we normally wouldn’t;
  • We create safe spaces where we and others can be vulnerable and honest without fear; and
  • We raise awareness and educate ourselves and others on an issue that affects half the world’s population.

The internet and social media platforms are filled with online communities like these, although it can take time to find one that fits.

While you look around, consider contributing to the safe2choose testimonial section. You can find support here and let us help you and others find community and representation in a safe, judgment-free zone.

 


Sources

[1] “Arguments in favor of abortion.” BBC World Service, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/abortion/mother/for_1.shtml. Accessed January 2021.

[2] “Can you explain what pro-choice means and pro-life means?” Planned Parenthood, 16 October 2019, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/ask-experts/can-you-explain-what-pro-choice-means-and-pro-life-means-im-supposed-to-do-it-for-a-class-thanks. Accessed January 2021.

[3] “Abortion in Africa.” Guttmacher Institute, https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/factsheet/ib_aww-africa.pdf. Accessed January 2021.