A lot of stigmas has always accompanied abortion in our society, and this has proven to be a challenge to the accessibility of abortion services for pregnant people who don’t want to keep the child. In fact, many women have been “forced” to keep unwanted children, and this has affected them greatly.
When one thinks of legal abortion and how accessible it is, it is hard to think of Australia except on good terms. But despite what access people might have to legal and safe abortion, stigma can block those paths. Abortion stigma is a serious problem and a major barrier to the accessibility of abortion services in many areas. This stigma could come in many forms leading to shame, silence, fear, and guilt. All these are serious barriers that stop many people from even speaking about abortion openly talk less of accessing legal and safe means of abortion. Abortion stigma is not only happening in developing countries; it happens in developed ones like Australia too.
Even though there are measures put in place to ensure safe abortion, there is no guarantee that every woman can access it. The fact that there are legal restrictions in place to prevent unsafe abortion is not enough. Where there is abortion stigma, unsafe abortion is very likely. There are some places in Australia where safe and legal abortion services don’t match the population. A good example is Albury which has one abortion clinic with approximately 100,000 residents.
The effect of this stigma can be manifested in multiple ways. Feelings of guilt, regret, fear, secrecy, and shame because of the decision to terminate a pregnancy can affect the ability of a woman to decide independently and make a choice that works for her. Some scholars refer to abortion stigma as a compound stigma. This is because it relies on and develops other forms of discrimination. Abortion stigma is related to stereotypes and social expectations about women, gender roles, motherhood, family responsibility, and sexuality.
One of the major factors that can reinforce this stigma is the religious, cultural, and social attitudes within a community. Most times, this is what creates the stigma in the first place. The pressures usually intensify in regional and rural communities where gossip spread easily, and the concept of honour and dishonour relies very much on this.
However, it can also be reinforced by urban communities and corporate institutions and organisations. A good example is where some insurance companies decide to limit the scope of their pregnancy-related cover for international students.
For there be accessibility to safe abortion, it will take more than just passing laws, opening clinics, and providing medications. While all these are necessary, there is also a need for social support and ending discrimination against women based on a decision about their own body. This is a human Right and health issue that everyone must get involved in.