Information helplines and hotlines have probably been around for as long as there have been telephones. If you put the word “helpline” into Google, the pages fill up with different helplines. In the last decade, safe abortion information helplines have evolved as a successful strategy to share information about how to have a safe abortion using medicines (mifepristone and misoprostol) and as a vehicle for social change.
In this Issue, Berkeley Media Studies group partnered with the Sea Change Program to explore how abortion stigma appears in mainstream print and online news and to consider the implications of these portrayals for reproductive health, rights and justice advocates. We also consider implications for journalists interested in telling stories that broaden the narrative around abortion in ways that affirm the range of individuals’ reproductive experiences and reduce shame and stigma.
This is web-based toolkit was developed by and for young people with inputs from Georgia, Lithuania, Republic of Macedonia, Poland and Romania, and written and edited by YouAct with great input from ASTRA Youth.
Studies were based mainly on US samples; some included participants from Ghana, Great Britain, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru and Zambia. The majority of studies showed that women who have had abortions experience fear of social judgment, self-judgment and a need for secrecy. Stigma appeared to be salient in abortion providers’ lives. More research, using validated measures, is needed to enhance understanding of abortion stigma and thereby reduce its impact on affected individuals.
Abortion is a common medical experience, globally and in South Africa. Worldwide, approximately one in five pregnancies ends in abortion. But many societies understand abortion as a moral transgression, even if its benefits to public health are sanctioned legally. South Africa’s abortion culture reveals this paradox: abortion is often publicly condemned – by political authorities, healthcare workers, patients and their families – but privately sanctioned.