Time to tackle abortion stigma

SARAH HULT and LILY McAULIFFE are founding members of the Fremantle-based Abortion Project, a pro-choice movement which seeks to destigmatise discussions about abortion and provide peer support for the many people who have experienced one.

1 in 4 to 1 in 6 people with uteruses have had abortions in Australia. You may have had one, or someone you know has. It is incredibly common, yet still silenced and stigmatised in our community. 

In Australia, all states have decriminalised abortion. However, people seeking abortion still face a number of barriers. Issues with access, stigma, silencing and compassionate aftercare permeate our abortion system. At The Abortion Project, we aim to change this. 

We are The Abortion Project, a pro-abortion, pro-choice community-led organisation established here on stolen Whaduk Noongar land, Walyalup.  We are a collective of queer feminists and we even have hairy armpits. First and foremost, we are a peer support group for people who have had abortions. 

At The Abortion Project, we talk about relationships, support networks, conceptualisation of the foetus and experiences with medical service providers. We talk to bodily loneliness, the power of choice, physical pain, hormonal transformation, and anything else. 

Having a structured group to talk about these experiences has been profound in knowing we are not alone. At The Abortion Project, we have laughed, cried and supported each other through discussions we could never have had the courage to explore individually. 

Abortion discussion is rare in mainstream Australia. It is silenced at all levels in our culture – collectively, systematically, relationally and individually. This silence is due to abortion stigmatisation. 

The Abortion Project is here to challenge this – by breaking the silence and bringing together a community who are dispersed. 

Abortion in an ancient medical procedure. 

Abortion documentation in Egypt is some of the first and oldest written medical texts in the world. 

Indigenous groups have been practicing pregnancy control and abortion for thousands of years. 

It is ancestral, it is normal. 

This means it is highly likely that someone you love will have an abortion in their life. 

Yet, patriarchal influences on our bodily autonomy have a profound impact on how we express, collectivise and process our experiences of abortion in Australia. These same patriarchal influences have eroded the Roe v Wade decision in America. 

Australia is not immune to the influence of the Roe v Wade decision. 

Recently in Perth, there was an anti-abortion rally that drew crowds of over 1000 people. 

We still have highly influential politicians advocating anti-abortion rhetoric. We still have religious groups lobbying for a roll-back of abortion protections. 

The Roe v Wade erosion is the result of slow legislative change over a number of decades. 

It did not exist in a vacuum and is backed by strong Republican ideology. 

Although the political landscape in Australia is different, we still need to be on guard. 

We need to be attentive in recognising any changes that are made to abortion laws. 

We need to focus on destigmatising abortion and creating better access. 

What is happening in the USA at the moment is not something that happened overnight. 

In the context of Australia, it’s hard to say what exactly is going to happen, but one thing is certain: we must stay vigilant. 

For us here in WA, we must ask ourselves, to what extent to our current laws serve those in our community seeking and having abortions? 

At the end of the day, people will always have abortions.

We have for thousands of years, and it will continue.  

Laws are the difference between having a safe and legal abortion, or not.  

If Roe v Wade is overturned, people will die, become seriously injured, and/or criminalised. Is this the kind of society we want to emulate? 

For us, the best thing to come of Roe v Wade is that abortion is in the public discourse. 

The Abortion Project is here to raise awareness on the issues we face here in Western Australia. 

We need better abortion after-care. We need spaces to shout our abortions. 

We need people to talk about abortion. 

To know the barriers. 

To know how to support someone going through an abortion. 

On June 25 The Abortion Project is holding a fundraiser to continue our group, and raise funds to advocate for abortion access and care. 

There will be music, food, drinks and a silent auction. 

Please come and support our cause. 

If you have had an abortion, or you are interested in learning more about how you can support abortion in Western Australia (including our fundraiser) – you can find us on instagram @the.abortionproject or on Facebook – The Abortion Project.

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