Shame is a powerful cultural and political tool that has been used to keep people from accessing the resources they need. Shame has kept my name anonymous in this article, but it will not stop me from accessing health care, telling this story, or encouraging others to do the same.
A Nebraska judge recently ruled that a pregnant teen in foster care could not have the abortion she was seeking. Many people have pointed out the irony of her being too young to make decisions, but old enough to parent—but the issues at stake here go much deeper.
People should be given the chance to make the decision whether to parent without judgment or stigma. Abortion is (or should be) an option. Women should not feel ashamed for doing what is best for them.
There are reproductive rights and justice advocates who are having abortion conversations that do not involve scare tactics. They are having these conversations on their campuses, in their homes, and in their communities, and they are doing it the right way.
If we can’t even talk about abortion, we can’t ever hope to change the stigma.
By sharing their stories, young people are creating spaces where we as a society can think about issues in terms of people’s realities and not political debates. Stories dispel myths, break down stereotypes, humanize issues, and invoke empathy and urgency, inspiring people who heard them to take action.
Worldwide, roughly 43 million women have an abortion each year. Yet these same women face stigma, a form of social control used to dehumanize, devalue, and isolate them. Providers are grappling with effective ways to reduce abortion stigma.