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Stigma and abortion complications in the United States.

Authors
  • Harris, Lisa H
Type
Published Article
Journal
Obstetrics and Gynecology
Publisher
Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer) - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2012
Volume
120
Issue
6
Pages
1472–1474
Identifiers
DOI: http://10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182723d82
PMID: 23168775
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Abortion is highly stigmatized in the United States and elsewhere. As a result, many women who seek or undergo abortion keep their decision a secret. In many regions of the world, stigma is a recognized contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality from unsafe abortion, even when abortion is legal. Women may self-induce abortion in ways that are dangerous, or seek unsafe clandestine abortion from inadequately trained health care providers out of fear that their sexual activity, pregnancy, or abortion will be exposed if they present to a safe, licensed facility. However, unsafe abortion rarely occurs in the United States, and accordingly, stigma as a cause of unsafe abortion in the United States context has not been described. I consider the relationship of stigma to two serious abortion complications experienced by U.S. patients. Both patients wished to keep their abortion decision a secret from family and friends, and in both cases, their inability to disclose their abortion contributed to life-threatening complications. The experiences of these patients suggest that availability of legal abortion services in the United States may not be enough to keep all women safe. The cases also challenge the rhetoric that "abortion hurts women," suggesting instead that abortion stigma hurts women.

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