Abortion has been legal since January 22, 1973 when the Supreme Court handed down the Roe v Wade decision. Since then, millions and millions of women have had abortions. One statistic shows that 43% of all women in this country will have one abortion in their lifetime. It is the most common surgical procedure performed on women.
Yet, despite its common usage, abortion also remains the most stigmatized of any medical procedure. No one talks about it openly. Women will travel hundreds of miles to get an abortion instead of risk being seen walking into a clinic in their own neighborhood. Many women are ashamed that they have had abortions.
The stigma just doesn’t affect women. It affects those who work in the clinics, the doctors, nurses and other line staff. They do not tell people what they do or, if they say anything, they’ll say they work in a “medical facility.” The stigma extends even to the pro-choice organizations. For decades, supporters of legal abortion have hidden behind the cloak of “choice” because, in my opinion, they are not comfortable with the actual procedure. The fact is, however, that “choice” can lead to abortion but it has always seemed to me that the national organizations will provide support to the point when the woman “chooses” but, when she chooses abortion, she is on her own.
That’s why years ago, the pro-choice movement got into a lot of trouble when anti-abortion organizations sought to outlaw the so-called “partial birth abortion.” For the first time, the organizations were forced to talk about abortion – and they failed miserably. They didn’t know the facts, they stumbled over the words, they didn’t know under what circumstances the procedure was performed and ultimately they were embarrassed nationally.
If we ever hope to erase the abortion stigma, supporters of “choice” need to start talking more honestly about abortion which means that, first, they need to understand more about the procedure. If supporters of “choice” do not start talking more about abortion, beginning with saying that they support legal abortion, we will not make any progress. The pro-life movement will just continue to focus on the abortion procedure, they will continue to show the (somewhat accurate) pictures of dead fetuses, they will insist that it’s murder and will say that women regret their abortions. If we don’t respond to these tough issues, we lose the long-term battle.
I am pleased to say that there is one organization, the Abortion Care Network, that is facing this issue head on. They are leading a “national conversation about abortion” in an effort to put everything on the table. This is an organization of independent (i.e., non-Planned Parenthood) abortion providers that needs to be paid attention to and, yes, needs your support.