Storytelling has always been a tool for connection and social change since the beginning of time. More and more we’re hearing those who have had abortions share their stories to fight against the pressure to stay silent and isolated. Abortion storytellers are sharing their stories in the media, in their communities, and with loved ones. But how do advocates support public abortion storytellers and what should storytellers consider before sharing their stories? As someone who has both shared her abortion story in public, and an advocate supporting people who’ve had abortions and LGBT young people sharing their stories with lawmakers and the media, I wanted to gather all that I had learned from those experiences in one place.
In partnership with The Sea Change Program, I surveyed 39 public abortion storytellers and interviewed 13 people sharing stigmatized personal stories, including abortion, teen parenting, sexual assault, living with HIV/AIDS, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Based on the findings, I authored Saying Abortion Aloud: Research and Recommendations for Public Abortion Storytellers and Organizations, an executive summary report and two recommendations guides for organizations on how public abortion storytellers say they’d like to be supported and things they believe people sharing their abortion stories should consider.
A plurality of respondents (41%) decided to share their abortion story publicly in order to show a new narrative about abortion and one third (31%) shared their story as part of a political action.
69% of respondents stated that they received positive online comments after sharing their abortion stories. In in-depth interviews, they shared that these positive responses helped them feel good about their decision to share.
Respondents also had experiences with negative reactions to their public abortion storytelling, including receiving negative online comments (28%) and negative feedback from strangers in person (21%).
A plurality of respondents (42%) stated that they received no support from organizations in sharing their abortion story publicly.
Despite this, 92% of respondents said that they would continue sharing their abortion story publicly