Building on our pro-choice legacy for a pro-voice future
Defending advocacy for choice
In 1985, consultant obstetrician Professor Wendy Savage was suspended from her job because of her advocacy for reproductive choice - including abortion access. When she found out that the Medical Defence Union (MDU) wasn’t going to support her, pro-choice activists rallied round to raise a fund worth more than £60,000. In the end, the MDU reversed their decision and agreed to pay for her legal costs. With the money, Wendy and two other trustees - Luke Zander and Heather Reid - set up a charity called Womanschoice. It was founded with the aim to provide education about pregnancy and parenting and fund research, mostly in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Its projects included a maternity services liaison scheme for Bangladeshi, Vietnamese and Somali families in the area, as well as research on women’s experiences of pre-birth pregnancy care.
We’re proud that Wendy remains one of our trustees. We still share the same pro-choice values that were at the core of Womanschoice’s mission. Today, we’re building on that work with a pro-voice mission to end abortion stigma.
Becoming Abortion Talk
By 2020, Womanschoice had become inactive. Meanwhile, our two co-directors, Professor Lesley Hoggart and Dr Jayne Kavanagh, were working on a traveling exhibition called My Body, My Life. Based on Lesley’s research into people’s experiences of accessing abortion, the project highlighted how - despite being safe, legal and accessible in the UK - abortion can sometimes be an isolating and stigmatising experience. Even though most people feel nothing but relief after having an abortion, engaging with visitors to the exhibition led Lesley and Jayne to want to do something for those people who need more emotional support.
Following a lot of work with an expert advisory group and international feminist campaigns, in 2021 Lesley and Jayne changed the name of our charity to Abortion Talk. They drew on what they’d learned and set up our Talkline, which provides emotional as well as practical support for people who want to talk about their abortion experiences. As an abortion care provider herself, Jayne recognised the value of specific spaces for healthcare professionals and activists involved in providing abortion care and advice. That’s why we also run workshops - to create spaces for people working in abortion to reaffirm their value and connect with their colleagues.
“In my research I was always struck by the range of different emotions surrounding abortion. Relief is a big one, but so is guilt. This comes from abortion stigma. But the more we talk about abortion, the more likely it is that relief is dominant. That is what Abortion Talk is all about”
Lesley Hoggart, Co-Director of Abortion Talk
Relaunched in 2021, Abortion Talk is now a volunteer-led charity, drawing on the expertise of our community of abortion providers, researchers and campaigners. We’re building on our pro-choice legacy to make pro-voice spaces for people to share their feelings about abortion. Whether your emotions and reflections on abortion are straightforward or complicated, we’re here to listen. That’s how we’re taking on abortion stigma - one conversation at a time.