Saying Abortion Aloud: Research and Recommendations for Public Abortion Storytellers and Organizations
Storytelling has a long history of being an effective strategy for change. We know it can transform hearts and minds, and shed light on how policy and culture impacts our personal experiences. Yet stigma and shame often prevent people from sharing their stories publicly.
What should storytellers think about before deciding to share their abortion stories publicly? What can organizations do to help people who want to share their abortion stories cope with stigma?
We surveyed 39 public abortion storytellers and conducted 13 in-depth interviews to ask them these questions and more. You can read the results in our executive summary and two reports:
- Executive Summary: Research & Recommendations for Public Abortion Storytellers and Organizations [PDF]
- Full Report: Research & Recommendations for Sharing Your Abortion Story Publicly [PDF]
- Full Report: Research & Recommendations for Organizations on How to Support Public Abortion Storytellers [PDF]
Read more about our results 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.
- “I had an abortion and it was the best decision of my life,” Fusion
- Can Storytelling Help Destroy Abortion Stigma?, Pacific Standard
- “Untold Stories” Help Us Transform the Culture of Stigma Around Reproduction, Autostraddle
- 3 Real Women Tell Their Abortion Stories, Refinery29
- New Year, Same as the Old Year? 2015 Reproductive Rights Preview, TruthOut
- ‘I Never Regretted It’: Why We Must Tell Our Abortion Stories, The Daily Beast
- The Top 10 Highs (and Lows) For Reproductive Health And Access In 2014, Buzzfeed
- Proof That The Women Who Share Their Abortion Stories Can Make A Difference, ThinkProgress
- A Holiday List You Should Definitely Check Twice, The Nation
- The Feministing Five: Saying Abortion Aloud, Feministing.com
- Activists using new means to fight abortion stigma, MSNBC
- Meet The Women Who Are Brave Enough To Share Their Abortion Stories, ThinkProgress
- It’s OK to tell your abortion story. Some women just don’t want to be pregnant, The Guardian
- Something Big Is Changing in the Fight for Reproductive Freedom – Women Are Done With Being Shamed, Truth-Out
- Stigma Makes People Reluctant to Tell Loved Ones About Their Abortions, Says Study, RH Reality Check
- “Not That Kind of Person”: Breaking Down the Stigma that Surrounds Abortion, Elle.com
- What Happened to “Abortion On Demand Without Apology”?, Dame Magazine
- Mindy Kaling’s Sitcom Could Help Disrupt Abortion Provider Stigma, RH Reality Check
- Wendy Davis Reminds Us Who Exactly Is Allowed To Talk About Their Abortions, ThinkProgress
- Bravo for Wendy Davis, but women’s abortions are none of your business, The Guardian
- This New Website Is Encouraging More Women To Talk About Their Abortions, ThinkProgress
- Hillary Clinton must reject the stigma that abortion should be legal but ‘rare’, The Guardian
- Stories begetting stories: How pop culture reinforces abortion stigma—and can help end it, Feministing
- The Second Lady’s Abortion: What ‘House of Cards’ Got Right… and Didn’t, RH Reality Check
- These Women Want to Change the Way You Think About Abortion, Cosmopolitan.com
- TED Backpedals on Abortion Stance After Outrage, The Nation
- TED Talks Don’t Cover Abortion Because They Say It Doesn’t Count As A Human Rights Issue, ThinkProgress
- Women’s Media Center Live radio interview
- How to Listen When a Loved One Says, ‘I Had an Abortion’, EBONY
- New Research on How to Support Abortion Storytellers by Steph Herold and Renee Bracey Sherman, RH Reality Check
- Groundbreaking Research Aims to Expand Our Knowledge of Abortion Stigma by Steph Herold, RH Reality Check
- What We Can Do About Abortion Stigma by Kate Cockrill, TPM Cafe
- Imagining a World Without Abortion Stigma by Kate Cockrill and Steph Herold, RH Reailty Check
- Obvious Child: The movie about abortion we’ve been waiting for by Steph Herold, Feministing
- Four Ways to Create Culture Change Around Abortion by Steph Herold, RH Reality Check
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.
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. Click here for information on how you and your organization can be involved in the Untold Stories Project.
Culture Change Cheat Sheet: Spring 2014
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.
- #NoTeenShame: Pushing Back on the Shaming of Young parents
- New Coalition Aims to Eliminate Stigma of Mental Illness One Story at a Time
- People Living with HIV Demand Rights-Based, Stigma-Free Services
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.
- Stigma Power
- Reducing stigma in reproductive health
- Intervening within and across levels: A multilevel approach to stigma and public health
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.
- A Male Escort’s Perspective: What It’s Really Like Outside an Abortion Clinic
- 6 Women on Their Terrifying,Infuriating Encounters With Abortion Clinic Protesters
- These Women Want to Change the Way You Think About Abortion
- To Get an Abortion in Brazil, I Lied and Said I was Raped
- Why I Filmed My Abortion