Why talk about abortion?
Many people who have abortions have a positive experience, well supported by caring health professionals.
Abortion is widely discussed in the media, but rarely in ways that represent the relief and gratitude people often feel following abortion.
Abortion, although so common, is all too often represented as something unusual or even shameful. This can stop people from receiving the support they may want or need. It can prevent them talking about and reflecting on their experiences, whether positive or more complex and challenging.
Starting or changing the conversation
Our story starts with how our charity decided to shift its focus to meet the changing reproductive health needs of women in the UK.
The Charity was set up in the mid-eighties to support the legal costs of Wendy Savage, consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in East London, when she was wrongly accused of negligence. Originally called Womanschoice its objectives were to advance education and research on pregnancy and childbirth.
The Charity was re-purposed by Lesley Hoggart and Jayne Kavanagh who had been exploring ways to create safe spaces for people to talk about abortion for years. For Lesley, this was as a researcher working at the Open University. For Jayne this was as a sexual health clinician in North London, teacher at UCL Medical School and co-Chair of Doctors for Choice UK, with Wendy Savage.
Jayne first started to think about the need for safe spaces for abortion providers to talk about the more challenging and emotional aspects of their work in 2012, when a friend and colleague was reported to the GMC following the Care Quality Commission ‘raid’ on abortion clinics. Her subsequent experiences facilitating workshops with healthcare providers whose work involved abortion care reinforced her belief that a supportive space to talk about their work outside the clinical setting would benefit those working in abortion care.
For Lesley, things began back in 2014 when she was interviewing women who’d had an abortion for a research project. At the end of the very first interview, she asked, ‘Why did you agree to do this interview?’ The participant told her that there was no-one else to talk to about her experiences – a response that was repeated several times during her study.
Between 2016 and 2019, Jayne worked with Lesley on the multimedia travelling exhibition My Body My Life, a community engagement project based on Lesley’s research. The exhibition highlighted the persistence of internalised abortion stigma in people who attended and reinforced the concern that although abortion is safe, accessible, and legal in the UK, it can be an isolating and stigmatising experience for some. Though many people feel nothing but relief following their abortion, Lesley and Jayne and the Abortion Talk team felt they could do more for those that didn’t.
in 2020 Jayne and Lesley attended a global gathering of INROADS (International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Discrimination and Stigma a global gathering in 2020. There they learned about the way in which feminist campaigning groups – especially in countries where abortion is illegal – provide emotional as well as practical support for people during and following abortion.This inspired them to try and provide similar supportive spaces in the UK.
Following conversations and work with the charity Trustees, the name was changed to Abortion Talk in early 2021.
Created with the needs of both those who seek and provide abortion care in mind, we are a community committed to fighting stigma by ensuring people feel heard and valued and receive the support they want/need. We are Abortion Talk