Why we need to fight abortion stigma
by Katie Lavers
Medical science has improved lives. Vaccinations can prevent disease. They have been in New Zealand since the 1860’s, with smallpox vaccines being first in line. In the 1940’s and 50’s more widespread vaccination programmes began.
Likewise, modern abortion care prevents deaths from unsafe abortions. It enables women to live the life they want. A summary line from The Turnaway Study, a longitudinal study, shows this clearly:
“Women who receive a wanted abortion are more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later.”
But in cases like these, the problems medical science solves become invisible to the next generation, because ‘success’ is measured by the absence of something bad rather than the presence of some new good. People do not die in droves of measles or Covid, and women can pursue their chosen careers.
This is how interventions like vaccinations and abortion care become easy pickings for those with an agenda. People who do not want to be vaccinated and, for some reason, also do not want others to be vaccinated, make illogical claims that the vaccines have no effect – because people still get the disease. This ignores the fact they do not die from it.
Likewise, people who do not want abortions and, for some reason, also do not want others to have them, make ill-founded claims that pregnant people’s mental health will suffer if they get an abortion. This ignores data like the Turnaway study, and personal experiences like my own, that demonstrate the opposite.
Unless you are part of the tiny but dubious extreme religious or alt-right subculture who want to see less choice for women, things are getting better. According to the website ‘Our World in Data’, in 1965 worldwide, women had on average, 5 children. Today that has more than halved, and is less than 2.5. This is a great thing, and not just for the planet as a whole. It is better for everyone to have children who are wanted and planned.
The difference between vaccination and abortion is stigma. 95% of New Zealanders have been vaccinated. 1 in 4 people with a uterus will have an abortion. These percentages show how accepted both medical treatments are.
But few talk about their abortions for fear of backlash, despite the positive, long-term impact it has on their lives.
Other than the fact I am a breadwinner, I am annoyingly living the cookie-cutter conservative’s dream. Cis-hetero, working, white family of four. And yet, it was an abortion in my twenties that allowed me to pursue my chosen path working in education. Yes, I love children!
We need to overcome the social stigma associated with talking about our abortions. This will ensure younger generations coming after us will understand how access to abortion care has shaped everyone’s lives for the better. Just like vaccinations.
Katie Lavers is an ALRANZ member, and a teacher turned freelance writer.