By Rachel Hardwick, WBA Advocacy Committee Member
A recent Pro-Choice Maryland “How to Talk About Abortion” training provided useful information and tools. Some of the takeaways are listed below.
Fighting abortion stigma includes saying the word ABORTION. Correct and appropriate language helps people access abortion care.
Examples of abortion stigma include looking down or thinking badly about people who have had abortions, making someone feel shame about their sex life, pregnancy status, or their decision to have an abortion, and/or accepting some abortions as needed but not others.
Call abortion what it is: It’s part of healthcare and it’s necessary. One in four pregnant people will have an abortion in their lifetime and 70% of Americans support abortion care. When we share our abortion stories, we participate in acts of resilience that go against stigma.
It’s important to use gender neutral language since trans men and non-binary people can need abortions. Say “women and others who can get pregnant,” “people at risk of pregnancy,” “folks who need abortion,” “pregnant people,” and “people of reproductive age.” It’s also helpful to talk about access, rather than “choice.” Accessible, affordable abortion care has been denied to pregnant people historically and continues to be difficult to access for marginalized people including Black people, transgender people, rural people, and disabled people.
It’s not helpful to prioritize some abortions over others. No matter a person’s reason, it’s the right reason for them. Abortions at any stage of pregnancy are needed. Judging a person’s reason furthers stigma.
It’s important to stress the facts:
- Abortion is
- A healthcare procedure
- Safe, effective, normal, and common (often safer than getting your wisdom teeth out or having a colonoscopy!)
- A human right
- A way to ensure a pregnant person is safe
- Abortion is not
- A healthcare procedure that causes breast cancer, risk of miscarriage, or any other health issues
- A harmful act
- Ideologically immoral
- Harmful to pregnant people physically or emotionally
Ninety percent of abortions take place at 10 weeks or earlier and are therefore very safe. The longer a pregnancy goes on, risks can increase. It’s safer to have an abortion than it is to give birth, at almost any stage of pregnancy. Restrictions such as waiting periods delay an individual’s ability to get an abortion, can increase the risks, and in some cases, make it inaccessible altogether.
See the WBA’s Issue Statement on Health Care in which the WBA states that everyone should have access to affordable, quality health care, including birth control, and the privacy to make reproductive choices.
Educate yourself by reading and studying:
- Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, by Dorothy Roberts
- New Handbook for a Post-Roe America: the Complete Guide to Abortion Legality, Access, and Practical Support, by Robin Marty (handbook for abortion care
- The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having – or Being Denied – an Abortion, by Diana Greene Foster, PhD
- The Family Roe: An American Story, by Joshua Prager
- Scarlet A: The Ethics, Law & Politics of Ordinary Abortion, by Katie Watson
- Any resource from a trusted source that uses facts, data, and good reporting, such as:
These organizations are working to make abortion accessible:
- Black Mamas Matter Alliance
- Religious Coalition for Reproductive Freedom
- Catholics for Choice
- Sister Song
- Baltimore Doula Project
- Baltimore Abortion Fund
- National Council of Jewish Women
- National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
- Indigenous Women Rising
Finally, here are some responses for talking with a person who says that abortion goes against their religion:
- Faith and personal views based in religious beliefs should not supersede science and decisions that individuals make about their own bodies.
- In the U.S., we value the separation of religion and our government.
- Many religions teach and believe that we should care for others and caring for others includes caring for the pregnant person.
- Not all religions take the position that abortion is impermissible. For example, Judaism prioritizes a pregnant person over a fetus.
Source: Pro-Choice Maryland training (August 31, 2022).