"Where is the Magic Johnson, the Arthur Ashe, the Elton John, the Annie Lennox of safe-abortion access or contraceptive use?" Asked Jessica Mack from MS Magazine in last month issue.
There is no denying Mack is right. Reproductive Rights Activists, providers and supporters need to take a page from activists of other movements like the Global HIV / AIDS movement. But it is not like we have not tried.
Writer Jennifer Baumgardner and filmmaker Gillian Aldrich attempted to kick start just such a movement with the "I Had an Abortion" film and T-Shirt Project in 2005. But it never took hold the way they might have hoped. What these idealistic activists did not expect was the strength of the stigma that still surround abortion globally – even in nations where it is legal.
In Ghana, one of the countries with the most permissive abortion laws on that continent the highest cause of death for women is still unsafe abortion. Cultural and religious stigma is so strong women avoid going to safe practitioners either because they do not know safe and legal medical services are available for abortion or for fear of people finding out.
In The United States- a large percentage of women who have commercial insurance still attempt to fund expensive abortion services without using coverage that could save them hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Stigma – the concern that employers, family members, or health care providers may learn of their abortion – is a main motivation for women to pay out of pocket for their abortion care when they can afford to. Under the Affordable Care Act, allowing children to remain on parental insurance plans until age 26, and with the trend towards abortion bans in both public and private insurance this situation may get worse.
So what can we do to change this situation? A few women, like Pageant contestant Jordan Barnstable, Miss Illinois 2010, have stepped up and taking a public stand for reproductive rights. But they are few and far between.
Well, according to researchers we need to look at more than just women who have had, or are having abortions. We need to understand how abortion stigma functions in societies and populations around the world.
"We've barely scratched the surface of how this effects male partners," according to Dr Danielle Bessett, assistant professor of sociology, University of Cincinnati, as an example of just one population that needs to be studied as well.
Bessett is one of a group of researchers looking at abortion stigma around the world. They are hiring their new international studies of abortion stigma in different national, cultural and population setting will help spread light no how to combat this problem.
In "Abortion stigma: a reconceptualization of constituents, causes and consequences," form the May – June issue of Women's Health Issues Drs Bessett, Norris, Steingberg, Kavanaugh, De Zordo and Becker introduced their introduction new approaches to this issue.
These studies covering areas of the United States, Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Mexico, Brazil and parts of Europe look at abortion stigma although multiple populations in areas where abortion is legal and illegal.
We need to better understand what we are dealing with if we want to, "Win the battle of Hearts and Minds around the abortion issue," according to Bessett.