Stop, Drop, and Listen


Abortion Stigma 101

Special Journal Issue Highlights New Research on Abortion Stigma

Abortion stigma is under-researched and few conceptual and methodological tools exist to measure its effects. In an effort to broaden the discussion around abortion stigma and spark further research and critical thinking, Women and Health has published a special issue on abortion stigma compiling articles examining the topic. The special issue was conceptualized and co-edited by Kate Cockrill, Executive Director of the Sea Change program, Leila Hessini and Kristen Shellenberg from Ipas, and Katrina Kimport, Assistant Professor at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California, San Francisco.

“This is a huge step in putting stigma in the center of the frame as opposed to identifying stigma only as a barrier to getting an abortion. We’re taking a closer look at what stigma is, what the consequences of stigma are, and what we can do about it,” says Kate Cockrill.

“This is really an important beginning; abortion stigma needs to be more of a global conversation,” says Leila Hessini, Director of Community Access at Ipas. “For years, researchers, advocates and policymakers have stumbled over stigma in working toward improving women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights,” adds Kristen Shellenberg, Senior Researcher at Ipas.

All articles in the special issue on abortion stigma are open access until March 2015.

Nickerson, Manski and Dennis interviewed low-income women seeking abortions in four U.S. states and uncovered how individual attitudes often reinforce stigma of women who seek abortions. Sorhaindo and co-authors used focus groups and interviews to explore the stigma experienced by women who had abortions in Mexico across five states and in Mexico City.

Two articles provide new ways of measuring abortion stigma. Shellenberg, Hessini, and Levandowski used focus groups with community members in Ghana and Zambia to develop a scale of attitudes toward abortion in those countries. In the United States, Martin et al. tested an instrument to assess the stigma of abortion among providers.

Three commentaries explore possibilities for reducing stigma. Joffe examined the harassment, regulation and marginalization of abortion providers from mainstream medicine since Roe v.Wade. Alternatively, Cockrill explored a world without stigma and calls for action to develop a collective vision to guide researchers, advocates, and practitioners toward this future. Hessini and colleagues refine the definition of abortion stigma and outline a set of priority questions for future research and programmatic efforts.

Full press release here.

Sea Change in the News

We’re frequently quoted experts on everything from abortion stigma research, how abortion manifests in media and policy, and innovative ways to create culture change on abortion. Interested in interviewing us? Email Deputy Director Steph Herold.


Original Articles:

We’ve also been mentioned in the Washington PostThe Paris Review, and Flavorwire.

Sea Change in Action: Our Newsletter

In mid-July 2014, we sent out our first newsletter! Read the whole thing here or the highlights below.

Our First Staff Retreat

Six people. Two days. One house. That’s a recipe for fun! In early July, we brought all our staff get together in Oakland for some learning and stigma busting. While our roots are spread in different soils around the world, the one thing we all had in common was experiencing stigma and our desire to changeculture. We spent our time brainstorming ideas for projects, sharing skills, and dreaming up where we want Sea Change to be in coming years. For us, the power of culture change and story sharing starts at home.

From Reading Women’s Lives to the Untold Stories Project

This year, we’re re-launching our Reading Women’s Lives project by publishing our own book of stories, to be published this fall, to spark open and curious conversations about reproduction. As we put out a call for essays, we realized that we needed a name that reflected the diversity of stories we received. Thus the Untold Stories Project was born, a name that is inclusive of the gender diversity we see in our everyday lives.

The Untold Stories Project is about creating spaces for genuine connection in a world that is deeply disconnected, especially around taboo issues like reproduction. Changing the culture of disconnection is about changing where shifts happen, and there’s no better place to start than in your living room. For information on how you and your organization can be involved in the Untold Stories Project, contact Lucia Leandro.


Culture Change Cheat Sheet: Spring 2014

Culture Change Geeks

We’re culture change geeks!

Here at Sea Change, we consider ourselves culture change geeks. We are obsessed with learning about strategies that social justice movements use to create measurable shifts in how people think, act, and behave. We’re always on the lookout for research, programs, and media coverage that challenge and inspire us to think about culture change in new ways.

Culture change is a lofty goal, but we’re seeing it around us all the time. Our quarterly Culture Change Cheat Sheet highlights innovations that we believe are creating dynamic culture change and reducing stigma.  We hope you’ll share these articles with your colleagues and inspire them to keep making shift happen.

Inspring Programs and Campaigns

How do we help people feel support and connection instead of shame and isolation? These campaigns are finding creative ways to address stigmatizing issues and prioritizing the people who are most impacted by those issues.

Image via Strong Families

Image via Strong Families

Research: Theory and Practice

Research provides critical guidance in designing successful programs. The papers below are recently published theoretical frameworks related to stigma and stigma reduction to inspire your next culture change campaign.

Media: Cosmopolitan Takes on Abortion

How often do you see a happy couple talking about how their abortion strengthened their relationship? Cosmopolitan featured this incredible story in their magazine earlier this year, and they’ve continued to craft a new way to talk about abortion in mainstream media by spotlighting nuanced personal experiences.