Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ending the Silence, Ending the Stigma

I had an abortion. It’s not an easy thing to say, not an easy thing to admit, especially in a public forum such as this. But it’s important to say it. To say it out loud, without shame or embarrassment. I had an abortion and I don’t regret it. I’m not guilty and I’m not ashamed. Of course, I can only speak for myself and I don’t put my experience out there as representative of all women’s experiences.

When we look at statistics, we see that, by age 45, about one-third of American women will have had at least one abortion. That’s roughly 1 out of 3 women. That means that, no matter what your background, religious beliefs, social or economic status is, chances are very good that you know a woman who had an abortion. You probably know more than one. My personal, anecdotal evidence is this: when I tell someone I’ve had an abortion, the most common response I get is, “so did my sister/best friend/college roommate/mother, etc.” The second most common response is, “so did I”. If abortion is so common, why aren’t women talking about their experiences more?

Abortion is private; abortion is traumatic; abortion is difficult; abortion is a tragic decision. All or none of those statements can be true for any woman. But I find it interesting and telling that, in a society so enamored with public airing of personal information, abortion is still such a “private” topic. In this day and age of “TMI”, abortion is still shrouded in silence.

To be clear, I don’t begrudge any woman who chooses to keep her abortion private. The decision to share that information can be as difficult as the choice to abort sometimes is. However, I do begrudge a hypocritical and judgmental society that creates a hostile environment for open discussion. This environment serves to isolate and further shame women who made that choice. And it keeps abortion locked in a closet, where speculation, misinformation and fear run rampant.

I genuinely believe that the silence and stigma surrounding abortion is one of the main factors contributing to the rise in anti-choice sentiment and legislation in this country. If more women speak out about their experiences, positive and negative, I think we could move the public discourse to a place of respect and compassion, focusing on healthcare and prevention. If we speak out, maybe we can turn the tide away from the assumption that abortion is “always a tragic choice” and something that women do capriciously or without really understanding what it is. If we speak out, we can give voice to the fact that every choice and experience is different, that “women who abort” isn’t just some monolithic group to be tucked away and spoken about via statistics and political posturing.

I had an abortion. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do and I haven’t regretted it once. If you had an abortion you may find that telling someone is very helpful. Whether your experience was positive, negative or both, your truth is what matters. I hope that every woman can find a safe space to talk about her experience(s) with abortion, when and if she decides to.

For more information about women speaking out about abortion, check out these links:


The Abortion Diaries (To host a FREE screening with PPRSR, contact us at blog@pprsr.org)

Speak Out: I Had an Abortion

General Info:

Abortion Conversation Project

Post Abortion Counseling:

Exhale or call 1-866-4-EXHALE

Exhale's talkline offers "non-judgmental emotional support, resources and information to women and girls who have had abortions, and their partners, friends, allies and family members".

Thanks very much to Cara and KaeLyn for the support and the links.


Anonymous said...

I loved this article. Maybe it is not easy to say "I have had an abortion, but it should be. I had one, and I did it within my rights, and have nothing to be ashamed of. Keep telling it like it is, sista!

KaeLyn said...

Thanks, Ali, for breaking the stigma and silence around abortion. It is so, so brave and your post articulates so clearly the reason why it is so vital to this movement to start having honest conversations about abortion...knowing it is not an easy thing to do. I hope your post helps other people find resources and support.