October 21, 2014 — Abortion carries a "stigma and judgment" unlike any other medical procedure, but women's increasing openness in sharing their experiences can help reduce those perceptions, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in Elle magazine.
Women's abortion experiences "are often seen through the lens of cultural and political battles," leaving "hardly any real firsthand experiences at the center of the discussion," she notes. "If a woman says that she's relieved after having an abortion, she may be judged for being heartless or unfeeling," but "[i]f she says that she feels regret, anti-abortion activists use this to push for laws that restrict access to abortion or laws that assume women are incapable of making their own decisions without the interference of others," according to Richards.
"[T]he point is that women shouldn't have to answer" questions about their need for an abortion "at all," she writes. Voluntarily sharing abortion stories can help women "connect with each other and begin to end myths and misconceptions about both the procedure and the women who have it," but "[t]here's a big difference between sharing your story and being forced to justify your decision," she adds.
Richards "know[s] this firsthand" because she had an abortion, which "wasn't a difficult decision" for her and her husband. However, "[w]hatever a woman's reason for having an abortion, for some people it will never be good enough," she writes. While there is "a long way to go to end abortion stigma in this country," women who are sharing their stories and advocates who are creating platforms for them to do so "show what's possible, and why it matters so much," Richards concludes (Richards, Elle, 10/16).