Abortion Stigma

Stigma divides, isolates, and hurts.

“Abortion stigma is a shared understanding that abortion is morally wrong and/or socially unacceptable.” – Addressing Abortion Stigma Through Service Delivery White Paper authored by Sea Change, Ibis Reproductive Health, and ANSIRH

We study the stigma of abortion, which can manifest in many ways, including:

  • In the media, when a person who’s had an abortion is stereotyped as selfish or immoral.
  • In policy, where politicians feel empowered to limit access to abortion and discriminate against abortion providers.
  • In institutional settings, where hospitals have policies that prohibit clinicians from providing abortions for fear of anti-abortion protestors.
  • In communities, where faith leaders make sermons about the immorality of abortion as people who’ve had abortions sit in their pews.
  • Within relationships, where a teen may be afraid to tell a friend about her abortion for fear that her friend will judge her.
  • At the individual level, where someone who’s had an abortion may feel guilty for not feeling guilty about their abortion.
Conceptual Model

We created this conceptual model in collaboration with Ibis Reproductive Health and ANSIRH. View it in more detail.

Abortion stigma has disastrous consequences around the world.  People seeking abortions are bullied, shamed, marginalized, and sometimes even prevented by law or intimidation from seeking safe health care services. Abortion providers are harassed, dehumanized and targeted by regulation and anti-abortion advocates. Stigma leads to the social, medical, and legal marginalization of abortion care around the world and is a barrier to access to high quality, safe abortion care.

Understanding abortion stigma can help us clarify many questions that the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement has been asking for years.

  • Why is abortion so hard to talk about?
  • Why does getting an abortion often feel illicit and shameful?
  • Why don’t we hear about the abortion experiences of our mothers, sisters, friends?
  • Why are abortion providers targets of violence and marginalized within the medical community?
  • Why is there an extreme level of criminalization and legal scrutiny around abortion worldwide?
  • Why does it feel like securing our reproductive rights is a never ending uphill battle?

Abortion is only one of many stigmatized reproductive experiences. Other stigmatized reproductive experiences can include: miscarriage, infertility, adoption, single-parenthood, teen pregnancy, LGBTQ couples who parent, and more.