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How to End Abortion Stigma Without Throwing Your Teammate under the Bus

Written by Kate Cockrill for - News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

As I read Stephanie Herold and Aspen Baker’s comments in the Nation regarding the recent trend toward tweeting abortion, I could not help thinking of reality television.  On reality TV, producers often create drama by creating a competition between two teams. At the end of the show, the losing team is forced to stand before a panel of judges and justify their actions over the course of episode. Where did the teamwork breakdown? Who wasn’t pulling their weight? More than in the actual competition, this is where the real drama of reality TV comes into play.  Within those losing teams, tensions between players are revealed to the judges as accusations fly about who threw who “under the bus.” Inevitably, someone on the team says, “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to win.”

In a better world, reality TV would not exploit the tensions that come into play when any team faces the prospect of another loss. Instead, the producers would bring in experts in teambuilding and conflict resolution to help the various members’ air their grievances and listen to the other players making their cooperation more successful.  They would build the team up, instead of tearing it down. But this is not the world we live in.

In the reality show of abortion politics, the competing teams might be characterized as “Team Choice” and “Team Life” Each team has its own internal conflicts. For example, members of Team Life have argued bitterly over the merits of an incremental approach to policy change versus maintaining a hard line and advocating for sweeping changes. Team Choice is currently debating the nature of abortion stigma. Although most members of Team Choice (providers, advocates, women who have abortions) agree that abortion stigma negatively affects anyone involved in abortion, there is little agreement about who or what is to blame for stigma, what stigma feels like, and what needs to change to reduce stigma.  Read more