What is Abortion Stigma? How does it work?

Stigma is a major contributor to the social, medical and legal marginalization of abortion worldwide. Yet, our understanding of stigma is still evolving.

Throughout the world, women still do not have the right to make one of the most important and life-transformative decisions: to carry a pregnancy to term or not. In spite of the fact that it is a very common experience during women’s reproductive lives, abortion is still seen as wrong or deviant. Though stigma manifests differently depending on geography, culture and religion, abortion remains a contested issue in countries as different as Australia, Spain, the United States, Kenya and Honduras.

Why are women deprived of a health-care service that could save their lives? Why are women forced to undergo a waiting period, deprivation of pain medications or judgmental attitudes in order to get an abortion? Why are abortion services often separate from other reproductive health care? Why are providers isolated and treated as substandard clinicians? And why do women in some contexts have to trade safety for access to routine health care?

Around the world, researchers and advocates are beginning to examine the role that abortions stigma plays in law, health policy, communities and the lives of individual women.

The goal of inroads is to support these efforts to understand stigma as part of a larger goal of supporting women’s sexual and reproductive rights and abortion access for all. Our specific contribution is to create a community of practice and set of resources and tools that individuals can use to identify sites of stigma and work to mitigate it. We believe that we must address stigma, and its root causes and consequences, in order for real and deep change to happen around abortion globally, regionally and locally. And time is of the essence.

The time is now for a global shift. Join us in reimagining abortion worldwide.