Since the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement from the Supreme Court, the country's focus has shifted to Roe v Wade and abortion rights. But the truth is that so many people across the country already have a difficult time accessing the care they need, and shame and stigma still surround this common, safe medical procedure. If we are to continue to give people full bodily autonomy, we must work to de-stigmatize abortion. One way to do that is to highlight the things we should stop saying about people who have more than one abortion.
According to a 2014 U.S. abortion patient survey published in the Journal of Women's Health, a reported 45 percent of abortion patients have had one or more abortions prior to their most recent procedures. In other words, it's very common to have more than one abortion, yet that experience is rarely, if ever, discussed openly... and when it is shame and stigma are sure to follow (and even from within the pro-choice community).
The reasons for having more than one abortion are as varied as the people who go through that experience, and are just as valid as the reasons why someone might have one abortion procedure. So how we talk about, and to, people who terminate more than one pregnancy matters, and is a catalyst for how we perceive everyone who decides when or if they want to become a parent.
So with that in mind, here are just a few things we should all stop saying about people who have had multiple abortions:
“Is This Your Preferred Method Of Birth Control?”
Unfortunately, there's a prevailing myth, most often regurgiated by those in the anti-choice community, that argues that women use abortion as their main source of birth control.
This isn't happening, people.
Some people use more birth control methods than others (like pills or IUDs or condoms). Some people don’t for a number of valid reasons, too. For example, I can’t use hormonal birth control myself due to a multitude of negative physical reactions ranging from extreme hair loss to severe depression. But if I had experienced another unwanted pregnancy and decided to terminate again, it wouldn’t mean I’m using abortion care as a means of birth control. Believe me, terminating a pregnancy isn't cheap or convenient.
“Didn’t You Learn Anything The First Time?”
No two pregnancy situations are the same. Maybe someone decided to go on the pill after their first abortion, but then got pregnant anyway because, yes, it happens. Maybe one unplanned pregnancy was the result of rape, and another was not. According to a NARAL Pro Choice America fact sheet, 25,000 American women a year become pregnant as a result of rape. (That statistic has been scrutinized, and per Politifact the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Justice don't keep data on pregnancies due to rape. The figure originated, according to Politifact, from a "2000 article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, using the 1996 analysis' estimate rate of five percent pregnancies from rape, assumed a 50 percent drop in rapes since 1992 to reach an estimate of 25,000 pregnancies from rape in 1998.")
Regardless of the reasons why, it's no one's place to judge why anyone decides to terminate a pregnancy. A person's medical decisions are just that... personal.
“Why Can’t You Be More Responsible?”
Actually, having an abortion is often the most responsible thing a pregnant person can do. According to the Guttmacher institute, 59 percent of women who have abortions are already mothers, and have at least one child at home to take care of. And according to a 2005 study, the main reasons why women decided to have abortions were "having a baby would dramatically interfere with their education, work, or ability to care for their dependents, or they could not afford a baby at that time."
Terminating a pregnancy is almost always the responsible choice for those who make it, and it's a personal one that should not be scrutinized by those who have no idea what's best for someone else's body, future, and family.
Any Kind Of Slut Shaming Comment
There are more than a few public comments made by public figures that highlight the amount of slut-shaming people who have abortions are subjected to. And, I'd argue, it's worse for individuals who have more than one abortion.
Whether it was Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) saying that a woman doesn't need access to abortion care in the case of a rape because, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down," to candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, Courtland Sykes, saying that he expects dinner when he gets home and hopes his daughters won't grow up to become "career-obsessed banshees who forgo home life and children and the happiness to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she devils," the idea that women are sexual beings is still a notion that elicits intense criticism and scrutiny.
Don't add to it. Human beings are sexual beings, there are a million reasons aside from procreation for having sex, and we shouldn't be positioning pregnancy and parenthood has a "consequence" of sex.
“Don’t You Feel Guilty?”
A 2015 study published in the multidisciplinary academic journal PLOS ONE, found that 95 percent of people who have abortions "do not regret their decision to terminate their pregnancies." And while there are people who do feel guilty about terminating their pregnancies, that guilt is often a bi-product of thee social stigma and judgment people who have abortions often face.
There is no one "right way" to feel about an abortion procedure, but don't add to the stigma of this common medical procedure by projecting guilt onto someone who has had one.
Anything That Only Justifies *Certain Reasons* For Abortion
You’re not doing your friend any favors by telling them that their abortion is OK but that so-and-so who terminated their pregnancy under different circumstances is somehow wrong. Someone's personal medical decisions is, again, just that: personal. No one knows the inner workings of someone else's life and, more importantly, they don't have to.
If you really want to be a good friend or relative, just be there for the person in your life who has recently terminated their pregnancy (or has at any point in their life, as there's a good chance they continue to face shame and stigma). Listen to them. Support them. Be kind to them.