Most women would not tell their family about abortion, survey finds

Marie Stopes survey finds 67% of women in the UK would hide an abortion from their family 

Sarah Young
Tuesday 05 November 2019 16:26
Marie Stopes launches #SmashAbortionStigma campaign

Just one in three UK women would tell their family if they were considering an abortion, new research reveals.

The survey of 2,684 women aged over 18, was conducted by Marie Stopes International – a leading sexual and reproductive healthcare charity – and aimed to determine who women would confide in if they were contemplating having an abortion.

The results found 67 per cent of women would feel the need to hide an abortion from their family.

Meanwhile, just over a third (34 per cent) of participants said they would feel comfortable speaking to their friends about getting an abortion, and 62 per cent said they would tell their sexual partner.

The survey also showed six per cent of women would not talk to anyone apart from a medical professional about their decision.

On average one in every three women in the UK will have an abortion in their lifetime.

The findings shine a spotlight on women’s attitudes to abortion in the UK, where despite more than nine in ten women (92 per cent) identifying as pro-choice, ongoing abortion stigma means there can be a wall of silence around the topic.

However, given Marie Stopes International's study revealed 79 per cent of women think abortion should be discussed more openly, the organisation has launched a new campaign to help women feel more supported and increase understanding.

The campaign, which is titled #SmashAbortionStigma, calls on people to share their stories on social media using the hashtag in a bid to break the silence surrounding abortion.

A number of high-profile figures have shown their support for the campaign, including Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen, novelist Marian Keyes and Derry Girls actress Siobhan McSweeney.

Dr Caroline Gazet, clinical director for Marie Stopes UK, said: “In the UK, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, yet we know that abortion stigma can make women feel judged, shamed and silenced.

”Women want to talk, and our research shows that open and honest conversations about abortion help women and girls feel informed, educated and supported when it comes to making their own choices about their own bodies.

“The UK is a pro-choice nation, but with a small minority of anti-choice voices threatening abortion rights worldwide, it is more important than ever that we smash abortion stigma and champion the right of women to access abortion care.”

Earlier this year, data published by the Department of Health and Social Care showed the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales had reached a record high of more than 200,000 in a year.

The figures showed that there were 200,608 abortions among women resident in England and Wales in 2018 – up four per cent on the 192,900 the previous year.

A further 1,053 were carried out on women travelling from Northern Ireland – an increase of 192 women from the year before.

On 22 October, abortion in Northern Ireland became decriminalised meaning that women and girls are now legally able to terminate a pregnancy without being prosecuted.

The UK government says while there are no plans for additional services to be routinely available in Northern Ireland before 31 March 2020, medical abortions will be provided on two hospital sites in the country from from April 2020.

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