Choice not Chance

Cameroon

New films from IPPF tell the stories of three women, from different countries, in different situations. Three women, who just like millions of other women, have had an abortion.   

Every day, everywhere women have abortions. In fact, one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Your sister, mother, daughter, partner, friend. Yourself.

Yet, despite being a fact of life, it is likely that you will not know if someone close to you has ever had an abortion because often, we just don’t talk about it. It is a ‘no go’ subject area.

However, by not talking about abortion we are ignoring and denying something that is a normal occurrence in many women’s lives. We perpetuate the stigma that leads to abortion being treated as something that should be hidden away and shrouded in secrecy, when instead we should be presenting  abortion as a valid choice and necessary right of all women.

Society’s unwillingness and reluctance to talk about abortion has a real impact on the ability of women to seek and access safe abortion information and services, even in countries with liberal legal frameworks that facilitate and support access to safe abortion services.

While women’s experience of abortion can vary widely depending on location, socio-economic status, religion and their social support network, the stigma that comes with having an abortion is a common experience that impacts all women, irrespective of their circumstance. For some, this can mean having to keep their abortion a secret, afraid of others’ reactions to their decision. For others, it can mean not knowing where to go or who to ask for accurate and unbiased information on their pregnancy options. And, for those living in countries where abortion is highly restricted, it can mean resorting to unsafe abortion because of a lack of information and availability of safer options. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Therefore, IPPF and its network of Member Associations is working to tackle abortion stigma to ensure that all women can access the information and the support they need when they are seeking abortion related services, irrespective of where they are, who they are or  their circumstance. We are challenging the stigma and the veil of secrecy that surrounds abortion because what women need is for their choices to be respected and their voices to be heard. They need to be able to access accurate, reliable and unbiased information about safe abortion. And they need access to safe abortion to be recognised as a basic human right for all women and girls.

To this end, IPPF has created a series of short films in which three women from Cameroon, India and France share their experience of abortion in their own words. These are real experiences which highlight what abortion means for women. The stories of three women, from three different countries, in three different situations. Three women, who just like millions of other women, have had an abortion.    

All women who have had an abortion will have their own story. Some may identify with the experiences shared in these films, and some may not. Some may have had their abortions alone and some will have been well supported by friends and family. Some may have had a safe abortion, and some, in too many cases still, will have had to resort to an unsafe abortion. However, what all women who have had an abortion will relate to from the films is the message that women should be trusted to make the decision that is right for them.

So, we invite you to watch these women’s stories, and share them widely. We invite you to share your own experiences of abortion. And we encourage you to challenge the stigma surrounding abortion.  Because the more we talk about it, the more acceptable and accessible it will become. Because abortion is something that cuts across borders, ages and the socio-economic divide. But a woman’s ability to access a safe abortion service, and therefore have control over her own body and make the decision  that is right for her, is still a matter of chance for many. It is now time that it becomes a matter of choice for all.