Sensationalizing Abortion

When asked to describe the type of woman who seeks out an abortion, many people will describe the image of a terrified, desperate teenager. Or perhaps they envision a young, single, unemployed woman with no support or resources to raise a child. Though both of these narratives are valid, statistics and anecdotes from the reproductive health field tell a vastly different story.

In contrast to the frightened 16-year-old desperately seeking to end her pregnancy because she has no other choice, the typical “face” of an abortion recipient is much older and much more confident in her decision. The Guttmacher Institute reports that less than 5% of U.S. abortions are performed on minors, and more than one-third of abortion recipients are in their mid-to-late 20s. Also contrary to popular belief, the average abortion recipient has a partner —14% of women who obtained abortions in 2014 were married and 31% were cohabitating.

Reports from reproductive health advocates in the field also shed light on the mindsets of women seeking abortions. Far from the stereotype of the woman or girl desperately seeking to end her pregnancy, women are making conscious, careful decisions about their reproductive health. HowToUse fields questions from users who make inquiries online. They report that users are predominantly confident in their decisions and are simply seeking information about or access to safe medical abortion. HowToUse also reports that the majority of their online users are between the ages of 25-34, significantly outside their early teenage years.

Medical Abortion As A Right For All

So why are abortion recipients so often characterized as young and desperate? One reason might be because this type of abortion recipient is deemed more “acceptable” by societal standards. She is herself a victim, and society can contextualize her behavior as a fearful, impulsive act. This dominant narrative is not only false, it is damaging. It perpetuates the idea that abortion is inherently an act of desperation rather than a fundamental reproductive right.

The fact is, women are making reasoned, calculated choices to end their pregnancies for a variety of reasons—from economic considerations to physical limitations, to simply waiting for the right timing in life or deciding not being a mother at all. The stories of these women need to be heard, acknowledged, and normalized. In order to truly protect women’s reproductive freedom, we need to accept every woman’s decision to abort as valid, without sensationalizing or stereotyping their decision-making. All women are entitled to make decisions that are best for their own body, wellbeing, and future.

HowToUseAbortionPill is working to offer access to safe medical abortion information, specifically information about the abortion pills Mifepristone and Misoprostol, to women all around the world who may choose to end an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy—whatever their reasoning may be.