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Secrecy and Stigma: The Roots of Substandard Abortion Care

Written by Charlotte Taft for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice. I am the director of the Abortion Care Network, a non-profit organization that supports independent abortion providers and challenges the stigma associated with abortion. I have worked with independent abortion providers for more than 30 years. I don’t have firsthand knowledge of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s practice in Philadelphia, so my comments are not directed to the particulars of his clinic. But when I read media accounts of women coming forward to report terrible experiences with their abortions, I feel sad and scared that these women may have settled for far less than they deserve. One of the many prices women pay for the stigma attached to abortion is that they don’t realize they have a right to medical skill, kindness, and a clean attractive abortion facility, just as they do with any other health care. If they are keeping secrets, they may not tell even other women about bad experiences—or good experiences. So each woman who is thinking about abortion is on her own. And they may not report substandard care to health authorities because they don’t want to jeopardize their own confidentiality. Or they may not even realize that they deserve better. As with any kind of service, some abortion facilities are better than others. Ironically the anti-choice movement with its righteous judgment creates an atmosphere of secrecy where a bad clinic could thrive. ... Read more