Exploring the Perceptions and Experiences of Stigma among Abortion Patients in the United States

Kristen M. Shellenberg, Guttmacher Institute
Lori Frohwirth, Guttmacher Institute

It is estimated that one-third of American women will have an abortion in their reproductive lifetimes. Despite the common occurrence of abortion in the U.S., stigmatization of abortion, and the women who have them, proliferates. Social stigma is associated with decreased physical and emotional well-being, yet we know very little about the role stigma plays in women’s abortion experiences. Using qualitative data collected in 2008 via in-depth interviews with abortion patients, we explore: perceptions of and experiences with abortion stigma, and motivations and experiences with concealment and disclosure. Many respondents reported feeling stigmatized by their decision to terminate a pregnancy; concealment of abortion was the primary mechanism for avoiding judgment from others. Our findings illustrate the importance of exploring the potential impact of stigma on women’s abortion experiences and mental health, with the ultimate goal of ensuring all women the best abortion care possible.

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Presented in Session 144: Abortion Decision-Making and Experience