Internalizing Abortion Stigma

A client we escorted into the EMW clinic started me thinking about how much we internalize society’s messages about abortion. These messages are inescapable. They are currently in the news, politics, churches and of course, on the sidewalk in front of abortion clinics around the world.

There are so many articles that have been written about abortion stigma. I will not attempt to repeat the great articles existing, but will direct you to two.

When we escort, we attempt to support clients and create a space removed from stigma and shame as they access their choice for an abortion. We aren’t always successful, but we try.

This story is what started me thinking about the pervasive messages we internalize and how sad it can be to wrestle with these messages.

The client and companion pulled up to the meters and we talked. They were from out of town and didn’t know the streets in Louisville. They were also nervous about protesters who might be around.  After answering their questions, I directed them to the all-day parking lot across the street to wait for the 30 minutes before the clinic opened.

They were aware they might be approached by antis trying to talk to them and give them pamphlets, but I reassured them it was their choice to talk or not and they didn’t have to roll down their window. Shortly after they parked, an anti approached their parked car. They did decide to engage in conversation, but it was short and the anti moved back to the sidewalk.

Just before the the doors opened, they started walking on the other side of the street towards the clinic. I crossed the street to meet them and let them know the clinic wasn’t quite open yet. They were actually looking for me because they needed assistance with paying the parking fee. There is a box with slots you slip the money into and it is confusing for almost everyone parking in that lot.

We walked back to the box and started sorting out how to pay. They were distressed about their conversation with the anti and wanted to tell me about it. They were told, “Don’t kill your baby. Have you thought about adoption?” They said they had tried to tell the anti their circumstances, but kept being told, “Just come next door for a free ultrasound to see your baby. It will only take 10 minutes and they can talk to you about adoption.”

They were upset and told me a lot of personal events that led them to their choice. We were talking while looking at the pay box and feeding the money into it. Then the client said, “This is my first pregnancy. I’m a good person.” I just stopped and looked directly in her eyes and said, “You are a good person. You are making the choice that is right for you and your family. Don’t ever doubt that you are a good person.”

We talked a little bit more and then walked back up the sidewalk and into the clinic that was now open. At one point on our walk, the client asked me why I escorted. I replied, “We believe every person should have the right to make the choice that is best for them. We come out to support clients in their decision and create a space for them to access abortion services.”

They both thanked me for walking with them. When we got close to the clinic, the companion was confident enough to tell the antis standing by the door to back away. They actually did back away, but they continued hurling hurtful words towards the client and companion.


REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!
The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

2 thoughts on “Internalizing Abortion Stigma

  1. Antis do not care of your individual circumstance, they act like carrying a pregnancy to term is always the best option. My circumstances with my aborted pregnancy were the worst, we were both full time students with full time jobs but we didn’t have a place to live, we were homeless ie camping out in the park within walking distance of our University and work.

    Even though I was physically healthy enough to carry the pregnancy, circumstance dictated that pregnancy would be very disruptive of our lives, education and come on we were homeless – we had no food, no healthcare, it was far from the best circumstance.

    But antis do not care, I got pamphlets shoved through my car window and offers of adoption all the way up to the clinic door. Adoption doesn’t remove the disruption that pregnancy can be to the life of the woman.

    • Oubli,

      It is unfortunate you had to experience all of that when you went for your abortion. I wish we could have been there to support you in your decision.

      The antis do not care. We have had clients tell them all kinds of personal things to convince the antis it wasn’t possible for them to carry the pregnancy to term. Things like: there is no fetus, it is just a water sac; the fetus is dead; I had a stroke my last delivery; we already have four children and I am unemployed. The response is always: Just come talk to us for 5 minutes; get an ultrasound to see if you have a viable pregnancy; think about adoption; get a second opinion from a “real” doctor. The antis do not hear them.

      Usually, it is something I can block out. This couple wanted me to understand why and they had a list of very good reasons to terminate the pregnancy. But they were still struggling with what the anti said to them. It really made me sad to see them struggle to come to terms with being a good person and making a good choice for them. It should not be this way. It should just be a choice they make. It is no one else’s business.

      Apologies for the long answer, but as you can tell. Their story did affect me on an emotional level.

      As always, thank you for your input. It helps.


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