Women Are Sharing Their Abortion Stories To Try To Tackle The Stigma Of Ending A Pregnancy
A new exhibition aims to show the wide range of reasons women have abortions. "Sometimes life is complicated," its creator said.
Women have been sharing their stories about why they chose to have abortions in the hope that a greater understanding of their reasons might help to tackle stigma around the procedure.
Last year almost 200,000 women in England and Wales chose to terminate a pregnancy, and one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, but the topic still remains relatively taboo.
In a new exhibition, My Body, My Life, opening at The Old Fire Station in Oxford on 7 November, clothing printed with women's abortion stories will be displayed to help demonstrate the complexities of those women's decisions.
Lesley Hoggart, from the Open University, and Imogen Goold, associate professor of law at the Oxford University, collected the stories and created the exhibition to show the huge variety of women who get abortions.
"We have these stereotypical ideas that it’s only younger women getting abortions, but it’s a huge range, from women in their early teens, right up to women in their late 40s, who think they’re going through the menopause," Goold told BuzzFeed News. "I really wanted all of that shown."
"Many women who get pregnant are using contraception of some kind," she continued.
"Those kind of facts help us understand why women need abortions. I particularly want to get rid of this idea that it’s just laziness, or they should have tried harder, or it’s all their fault.
"Sometimes life is complicated."
Earlier this year, Labour MP Diana Johnson put forward a parliamentary bill to loosen restrictions on abortion in the UK, and the 50th anniversary of Britain's current abortion law, the Abortion Act 1967, has prompted discussions over whether medical advances mean it is no longer suitable.
But Goold said she was keen for the exhibition not to be politicised, and the views of women who are both for and against abortion are represented.
"Some women are happy about their abortions, some regret it and some are conflicted," she said. "We are keen not to just have a pro-choice message, it’s meant to be about the fact that abortion is complicated and to understand that, we need to understand a whole range of experiences that women have reported."
Instead the aim of the exhibition is to encourage women to share their stories and experiences. The items of clothing are laid out on a rail and visitors to the exhibition are invited to chat as they browse through them. During a recent previous version of the exhibition at the Edinburgh Fringe, Goold said she saw several women strike up conversations around abortion.
"We had women talking to us, and talking to their friends, but also talking to strangers, which was great," she said. "What I’ve noticed in conversations with women is you say your story, and all of a sudden other women will start sharing theirs."
Goold hopes that an increased openness about abortion, and the range of women who have them, will go a long way to reducing stigma, which often leaves women feeling guilty or ashamed.
"I think it’s important that when we think about abortion law reform we actually think about the women who are having them," she said.
"If you’re thinking about those women, you might think about it from other perspectives."