What Do You Call a Woman Who's Had an Abortion? Mother, Daughter, Sister, Friend

14/10/2012 21:24 BST | Updated 14/12/2012 10:12 GMT


BPAS is launching the first ever nationwide campaign in support of women's choice. Recent comments by cabinet ministers combined with an upsurge in anti-abortion activity outside clinics show we cannot take for granted that the women we know will always have access to the services they need, when they need them.

The discussion about abortion exists at a number of levels, but rarely does it reflect the reality and diversity of the tens of thousands of women who come to us for advice about unplanned pregnancy every year. Sadly stereotypes often prevail - women are often cast as feckless and irresponsible for seeking abortion after finding themselves with an unwanted pregnancy - or career women interested only in their own personal goals. Recent comments and campaigns by politicians opposed to abortion often imply that women do not know what they are doing when they request abortion and need protecting from themselves, or that what they are doing is morally wrong - and that their pregnancies need protecting from the women themselves.

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. They are not a particular 'type' of woman, they are everywoman - of all ages and all circumstances. Contraception fails, and sometimes we fail to use it properly. Amid incessant talk of infertility, many women - both young and middle-aged - underestimate how easy it is to get pregnant. BPAS sees women with unplanned pregnancies not long after giving birth, having been told that breastfeeding provides effective contraceptive protection. We also see women whose lives have been turned upside down when a problem is found with a much wanted pregnancy, or when personal circumstances change so much that a planned pregnancy can no longer be carried to term.

These women do not have abortions because they do not know what they are doing, or because they have no sense of right and wrong. They have abortions because it is the right thing for them and their families at that time in their lives. Only the woman herself can make that judgment - not the banner-bearing protester outside, the health secretary - or even the doctor providing her care.

These women will be mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. They will be women we all know, and that is what we hope to bring home with our campaign. We live in a country where the majority of us support a woman's ability to make a choice when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but where a vocal and determined minority have the potential to undermine women's access to care - if we are not careful.

Abortion is a fundamental part of women's reproductive healthcare - for all the women in our lives, let's make sure we protect it.