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Challenging the way people talk about abortion

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HealthWiki > Health Actions for Women > Chapter 9: Preventing Deaths from Unsafe Abortion > Challenging the way people talk about abortion


People say a lot of untrue and unkind things about women who have abortions. When no one questions these comments, it encourages people to judge and blame women instead of seeing them as human beings in a difficult situation. The next activity can help a group think about ways to respond to common but unfair ideas about women who have abortions and to change community attitudes and stigma about it.

ActivitySaying no to blaming and shaming

To prepare: Before the activity, prepare some harmful opinions or judgments that are commonly heard in your community. Some common statements that blame or shame women are:

"Only women with no morals have abortions."
"A woman who becomes pregnant without being married should have to live with the consequences."
"Abortion is murder."
  1. Explain the activity to the group, making clear that the only reason you will be sharing hurtful, blaming statements about women and abortion is in order to learn how to respond to them by showing more understanding, open-mindedness, and tolerance.
  2. Pick one of the statements you prepared and ask the group to talk about it. Ask:
    • Who might say this sort of thing?
    • How does this statement keep women ashamed, afraid, or quiet?
  3. Ask questions like these to help the group think about what they could say that would be kinder, more compassionate, or open-minded:
    • How does it help to think about why women find themselves in this situation?
    • How can we help others see things from the pregnant woman’s point of view?

  4. 4 women speaking in a group.
    What if I said, "Women who have abortions just want to avoid responsibility?"
    Maybe she is a girl who has been abused or who wants to finish school.
    I do not think it is right for me to judge a woman who has an abortion since I do not know her reasons or her difficulties.
    I think many women have abortions because they feel so much responsibility for the children they already have.
  5. Then ask the group to think of ways they can share their ideas in the community so women who have abortions are treated with respect and compassion. What can they do to promote more tolerance and understanding in the way people think and talk about abortion?

    For some, this may mean sharing their personal story in a public way so that it reaches other women. Some groups have made radio programs or videos that share the whole truth about women who choose to have abortions. (See Doctor Aruna Uprety’s story.)

    Others may turn to political actions, such as participating in marches or lobbying the government. Some use art, such as creating public murals or poems about women’s right to safe abortion. It may also simply mean speaking up when you hear an unkind, hurtful comment about women in these situations.