The Incredible Stigma of Abortion
Abortion stigma began the moment I realized I was pregnant. In even considering an abortion, many women cross the line of their own personal conscience. One step can lead to another until you are quickly “pregnant no more.”
It is nearly trite to say that my abortion experience marked my life deeply. Any form of pregnancy loss is memorable. If not grieved adequately, this loss can impact the rest of an individual’s life in many ways. In America alone 33% of women have chosen abortion at least once. Only a handful will ever openly admit to making this choice.
After abortion women can experience a brief sense of “relief” that the crisis is over. While some believed, “Abortion was wrong” prior to their unplanned pregnancy, few ever thought they could personally need an escape from an unplanned pregnancy. When the hypothetical situation becomes real, abortion is a difficult option to discredit. That’s when the stigma starts…
The Abstract seems plausible enough – Understanding abortion stigma will inform strategies to reduce it, which has direct implications for improving access to care and better health for those whom stigma affects.”
The authors define abortion stigma as, “A negative attribute ascribed TO WOMEN who seek to terminate a pregnancy that marks them, internally or externally, as inferior to ideals of womanhood.” They go on, “Concealing abortion is part of a vicious cycle that reinforces the perpetuation of stigma.”
These writers missed a huge point. If I had wanted everyone to know about my unexpected pregnancy, I wouldn’t have entered an abortion clinic! These pro-abortion researchers are simply working to make abortion more acceptable. Since abortion means a child dies, there is no way everyone in our world will agree that it has any good qualities.
Abortion allowed me to exchange one stigma (unexpected pregnancy) for another (abortion). While I thought abortion was an easier option, I was wrong. One thing I can do is CONTROL whom I share this truth with. If I choose to conceal my abortion, I am NOT responsible for perpetuating the abortion stigma.
These researchers outline, “This secret keeping, in turn, led to more thought suppression regarding the abortion, which hampered post-abortion psychological adjustment.”
At least they acknowledge that we need psychological “adjustments” after this choice! Few groups offer these “adjustment” services – or abortion recovery classes – outside of our nation’s pregnancy centers, church based or stand-alone abortion recovery programs. Most pro-abortion led efforts that are “pro-voice” simply want women to speak positively about their abortion. They rarely allow any testimony of abortion regret to be allowed in their publications, tours, speaking efforts or written works.
In choosing abortion, I felt I had betrayed my internal identity as a woman. I was fully capable of having a baby physically, but not psychologically, or so I thought. Afterwards, my whole soul felt like it was marked. That was proven when various dysfunctional behaviors appeared in my heart that were not present before my pregnancy was terminated.
The following are points these theorists believe could be the reason for abortion stigma, along with my personal opinion:
Abortion stigma is usually considered a “concealable” stigma – “it is unknown to others unless disclosed.” – Most of us did, at one time, believe we could conceal this secret forever.
Women are not “fully in control of whether their status (as post-abortive) is revealed by – and to – others.” Women often fear discovery at every level, especially by their own family members. Abortion can even be used as blackmail where the abuser maintains an abusive control by threatening to betray the woman’s secret by sharing this truth with family and friends.
Two out of three women having abortions anticipate abortion stigma if others learn about it. Many women even practice appearing “innocent” when they are alone so that if and/or when the abortion topic is brought up, they do not betray their abortion truth with a physical reaction.
Abortion stigma is also impacted by perceptions. These authors outline the difference, at a psychological level, between what they call “good” and “bad” abortion experiences.
This research indicates a “good” abortion is more socially acceptable, characterized by one or more of the following:
- A fetus with major malformations
- A pregnancy that occurred despite a reliable method of contraception
- A first-time abortion
- An abortion in the case of rape or incest
- A very young woman
- A contrite woman who is in a monogamous relationship
On the other extreme are “bad” abortions. These occur, “at later gestational ages,” and include women who had multiple previous abortions without using contraception.
These authors conclude that the post-abortive women themselves, “May be both the stigmatizer and stigmatized, believing they had “good abortions” and distancing themselves from others who had “bad abortions. These moral distinctions may be drawn by any woman having an abortion, whether anti-abortion or prochoice.”
They got this part right. I judged the married mother of two children that sat next to me while we were waiting for our abortions. I thought abortion was only for pregnant teenagers, not married women with the ability to care for children!
What is preposterous is the conclusion of these authors – that society can do something to suddenly transform abortion into something that VALIDATES women versus STIGMATIZES them. In order to do that, the researchers would have to find a way to alter a woman’s genetic code that turns off her inborn drive to, “protect her young at any cost.”
How has abortion stigmatized your life? Record your thoughts in your journal. Be sure to read the assignment in Her Choice to Heal, complete the healing activities on each module, the Words of God’s comfort along with each module’s daily devotionals to help bolster your heart.
If you feel anger towards those that served you at the abortion clinic, the doctor or the industry in general, realize that anger could become a bitter root in your heart that leads to sin. Forgiving them, even if they aren’t sorry, is essential. To truly know you have forgiven someone, you begin to pray for them, not against them. It may be helpful to write out your angry emotions and then bring them to God by offering a prayer for those involved in the abortion industry.
[i] Norris A, Bessett D, Steinberg JR, Kavanaugh ML, DeZordo, S, Becker D. Abortion Stigma: A Reconceptualization of Constituents, Cause and Consequences, Womens Health Issues. May-June, 2011; (3 suppl):S49-54, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21530840/
Hello, I am Sydna Massé Founder and CEO of Ramah International. I'd love to keep in touch and include you in our prayer chain as we continue to serve abortion's wounded and those considering abortion.
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