5 Ways to be Resilient to Abortion Stigma

By: Kate Cockrill, Executive Director of the Sea Change Program

** This article is cross-posted to NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota’s blog, ProChoiceMN. The original article can be found at The Sea Change Program **

“So, what do you do for a living?”

Despite over a decade of working in abortion rights, this question still trips me up. Whether the question comes from someone at my kid’s school, a friend of my in-laws, or the person next to me on a plane, I still feel a pang of anxiety about discussing my professional life. Saying, “I work to end abortion stigma” does weird things in a casual conversation. Most often, when I say “abortion,” there are no follow up questions, only averted gazes and awkward pauses. On rare occasions, I get a “that’s awesome, we really need that.” And once or twice a year, I get a deeply personal story. But every time I’m asked the question, I feel an intense pressure to choose my words well in order to avoid, reframe, or deconstruct all of the misinformation that people have about abortion. My guilty secret is that sometimes I’m tired, distracted, and unprepared and I skip saying “abortion” altogether.

Recently, I was asked by journalist Lauren Rankin to give a quote on an opinion piece critiquing how some Planned Parenthood supporters are responding to the recent Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood. The thesis of her piece was that Planned Parenthood supporters are failing to “boldly defend” abortion when they point out that only 3% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are abortion services. Rankin argued:

“We have to stop this. We have to stop inferring that abortion it isn’t really health care, that it’s okay to deny government funding to it. We cannot defend reproductive health care by reinforcing the stigmatizing notion that abortion is different.”

While I agree, in principle, that abortion services need bold defense, in practice, I know it’s more complicated. Her article got me thinking about all of the times that I, someone who deeply believes in eradicating abortion stigma, have intentionally distanced myself from the word “abortion.”

What I’d like to suggest is that most people who work in abortion care and advocacy, including defenders of Planned Parenthood, do not need to be reminded that their words count. I think most of us know that. What we do need are skills to manage the stigma we will likely encounter when we say the word abortion out loud …. finish reading article here.


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