By Milly, a young volunteer at FPA in the UK
Abortion is a taboo subject across the world, even in places we view as the most progressive and forward-thinking. Last month, IPPF brought together people from the UK and internationally, working or volunteering in different human rights and sexual health organisations to learn more about abortion stigma, how to tackle it, and why it’s important that it stops.
What was initially very shocking, but sadly not surprising, was that no matter where in the world we were from it seemed that even the schools with better sex education failed to properly inform their students about abortion. For those of us from the UK there was an overwhelming consensus that our knowledge on abortion was primarily taught through ethics debates in religious education, often bringing with it myths and a total lack of facts and statistics.
Of the many activities we took part in, the most interesting made us face our internalised biases towards those seeking abortion by ranking the validity of reasons for someone to obtain an abortion. Whilst the more ‘extreme’ circumstances were generally ranked at the top, all of us agreed that the most important reason for someone asking for an abortion is that they had made that choice, and insightful discussions ensued about why the extreme circumstances were deemed the most compelling.
Despite one in three women in the UK having had an abortion, we still have a long way to go in how we talk about it, particularly in the media. By avoiding the word entirely or using pictures of pregnant women weeks from giving birth in articles, the media creates subtle biases and stereotypes which are damaging to those who choose to terminate a pregnancy. As organisations and individuals we have to make sure that those around us and the general public are getting the information they need to make informed decisions about their bodies.