The Baby Elephant in the Room: Pro Abortion Researchers Attack Abortion Stigma

By Janet Morana & Kevin Burke Published on October 29, 2016

Abortion activists have removed the barriers to abortion across the West, with millions of women and men being part of abortion decisions and procedures.

Yet, despite the massive number of abortions, researchers and public health officials note the persistence of stigma associated with the procedure:

… abortion stigma can be observed at the individual level by measuring worries about the judgment by others, isolation, self-judgment (such as shame), and perceptions of community condemnation. (Cockrill et al., 2013)[1]

Leila Hessini, writing in Rewire, takes it one step further and says that abortion stigma is a form of discrimination:

Abortion stigma occurs when people are labeled, dehumanized, or discriminated against due to their need for, or association with, abortion.

Students at Loyola University participated in a Student’s for Reproductive Choice activity with a papaya to help de-stigmatize abortion:

Students used a papaya to learn about vacuum aspiration abortions, claiming it’s similar to sucking out papaya seeds … a “teacher” tells a student how to insert the cannula into the papaya (uterus) and instructs her on how far to go and how to suck out the insides. … The purpose of the papaya workshop is for students to learn about aspiration abortions, and to destigmatize abortion in general.

Kate Cockrill, MPH is the co-founder of Sea Change, whose mission is to “transform the culture of reproductive stigma.”

The Sea Change website asks some questions about abortion stigma:

  • Why is abortion so hard to talk about?
  • Why does getting an abortion often feel illicit and shameful?
  • Why don’t we hear about the abortion experiences of our mothers, sisters, friends?

Cockrill and her colleagues talk about strategies to reduce and eliminate abortion stigma with the goal of lessening a woman’s isolation and building connection, social support and validation of their abortion decision:

We can imagine a world in which abortion stigma and shame do not taint the relationships of people with abortion experiences … People might talk regularly about their abortion experiences with co-workers, friends, and family members. …

Reduce the secrecy — remove the shame guilt and silence — and women are supported and empowered by their reproductive choices. Abortion is just another in a series of life events and transitions that women can share with friends and family.

Yet even here in the United States where abortion is displayed in media and television in a positive light, most of the women and men who experience this most common and intimate of medical procedures keep it a closely guarded secret.

The Lived Reality of Abortion — The Female Body is Not Pro-Choice

Pro-abortion researchers and public health officials look outside the individual for the source of stigma. The lens through which they look at a woman’s abortion experience is filtered through a narrative of abortion as an act of female autonomy and empowerment.

After all, abortion is as simple as sucking the seeds out of a papaya, right?

Women who have experienced the procedure have a different perspective*:

It was extremely painful, and I will never in my life forget the loud horrifying sound of the suction machine taking the life out of my body. — Cathy

Funny thing about the pro abortion language of bodily autonomy and choice — a woman’s body is not pro-choice.

Once conception occurs, and the pregnancy is developing normally, a woman’s body nurtures and protects the life in her womb. On an emotional and physiological level, a woman has to violate and sever an intimate communion between mother and developing child when that relationship and pregnancy is terminated.

The shame, guilt and unacknowledged loss called “disenfranchised grief” are common after the procedure. They are connected to a sense within a woman of violating something innate, deep within her identity and an intuitive sense that this intimate relationship has been severed.

The biggest impact abortion has had on me is that every time I look at my children I have now, I think about that little face I never saw and the child I have never known. — Aimee B.C., Canada

Women and also men may develop various addictions and become involved in abusive relationships and impulsive sex to dull their pain. Many others throw themselves into hyper-success drive to get far away from their guilt and grief.

I lost what I was trying to save with the abortion. I sacrificed my children on the altar of my ambition. Addictions came into my life as I tried to run from the pain. My misery drove me to my knees. — David

Pro-choice feminists Kate Michelman of NARAL and Gloria Steinem zealously promoted abortion rights after their abortions. Their natural post-abortion feelings of sadness, grief and guilt were channeled into abortion rights activism. Others become public health workers, researchers and volunteers spreading abortion rights around the globe.

Leslie shares about her pro-choice activism after an abortion:

I discovered I was pregnant and I had just landed my dream job as a TV Talk Show Host.  A roommate drove me to an abortion clinic in Greensboro, N.C.

After graduation, I threw myself into the new job creating a façade of the perfect young career girl who had it all together … drinking, drugging and sleeping around … self destructing.

Trying to validate my choices, I became a strong pro-abortion supporter and at times militant with anyone who didn’t agree with my opinion.

Stigma as the Door to Recovery

Pro abortion public health officials imagine a world free of abortion stigma and shame.

Yet when a woman or man participates in the death of their unborn child, they naturally experience feelings of sadness, fear of judgment, and isolation in their secret shame.  Even when there is a sense of relief after the procedure there are still feelings of grief, anxiety and emptiness.

The path to recovery, and the reduction and elimination of the feelings associated with abortion stigma, requires an affirmation of what was lost and the healing of the broken relationship between parent and child. This is best accomplished in a faith-based abortion recovery program with others who have experienced this loss.

Pro abortion ideology blinds abortion researchers like Kate Cockrill to the true source of abortion stigma and the effective remedy for women and men’s post abortion suffering.

It’s the baby elephant in the room of the pro abortion movement.


*All testimony excerpts in this article are taken from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign Website.


[1] Commentary: Imagine a World Without Abortion Stigma, Women & Health, 54:7, 662-665, DOI: 10.1080/03630242.2014.919986


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