The journal Women and Health just published a special issue on abortion stigma research. Abortion stigma has been under reasearched in the academic world. This issue, Bringing Abortion Stigma Into Focus, is groundbreaking. The stigma associated with abortion is based on a belief that abortion is socially or morally wrong. Culturally, the stigma manifests as silence and shame. As a result of the stigma, people are reluctant to speak openly about abortion and are even more reluctant to share their abortion stories. In the media, abortion stigma manifests as either silence, or myths and mischaracterizations about abortions and the women who have them. In medical and research fields, abortion stigma is reflected in the marginalization of the procedure within health care facilities and the dearth of scholarly research dedicated to abortion stigma.
Scholars and researchers from the Sea Change Program, Ipas, and the research group Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) collaborated on this special issue with a goal of broadening the discussion around abortion stigma. The collaborators are hopeful that the the journal will pave the way for future research on the widespread effects of abortion stigma.
The co-editors see this journal issue as the first step towards abolishing abortion stigma: “This special issue [is] just the beginning. We are trying to spark a movement of individuals and organizations working to understand and mitigate abortion stigma at local, regional, and global levels.” Ending abortion stigma is no easy task - it will require a wealth of research, advocacy, and collaboration. In her featured commentary, "Imagine a World Without Abortion Stigma," Kate Cockrill, MPH, writes that "Mapping a shared vision for a world free of abortion stigma requires a diverse set of cartographers," including social scientists, theologians, advocates for health, rights and justice, and community members who are affected by abortion stigma.
Anecdotal stories, such as this important piece Elle magazine published two weeks ago, have been instrumental in breaking the silence surrounding abortion. As an academic publication, Bringing Abortion Stigma Into Focus is an important contribution to this fast-growing conversation.