The Center for Reproductive Rights and We Testify, along with 116 additional organizations advocating for reproductive health, rights, and justice, issued a letter last week calling on U.S. public officials and policy makers to help combat the stigma around abortion.
The letter comes at a pivotal moment in the fight for abortion rights, as Texas’ radical law that bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy has ended nearly all abortion access in the state. And in December, the Supreme Court is considering a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Center for Reproductive Rights case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Abortion is a normal—and common—component of comprehensive reproductive health care. One in four women in the U.S. will have an abortion in her lifetime. Nonetheless, considerable stigma about abortion persists. Abortion stigma is central to the anti-abortion movement, which wields stigma as a deliberate tactic to erode public support for abortion, disparage health care providers who perform abortions, and shame and isolate patients who have received this type of health care.
“Legislators across the nation represent those of us who have abortions. We aren’t an abstract idea. We aren’t a political issue. We are your constituents,” said Renee Bracey Sherman, Founder & Executive Director of We Testify. “What politicians say about abortion and how they speak about those of us who have abortions is just as important as the votes they cast in support of abortion access. We deserve legislators who not only say the word abortion, but model what it looks like to show up for people who have abortions. Everyone loves someone who had abortions—including our elected officials.”
Abortion storytellers and local, state, and federal policy makers are already changing the narrative around abortion care by publicly sharing their personal stories. At a Congressional hearing just two weeks ago, Reps. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), and Cori Bush (MO-01), along with We Testify abortion storyteller Maleeha Aziz, spoke to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about how access to abortion care crucially allowed them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.
“I felt shame that I never should have felt. . . Today, I am testifying before you because I want you to know there are so many different situations that people face in making these choices … it is simply no one’s business what choices we as pregnant people make about our bodies,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal in her testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
This letter calls on public officials and policy makers across the country to follow the courageous lead of these and other abortion storytellers by expressing support for people who have abortions in the language they use and the policies they introduce. At this key moment, as pregnant people across Texas—and beyond—are denied access to their constitutionally protected right to access abortion, all steps must be taken to break down abortion stigma and support abortion access for all who need it.