Sentences that start off supporting abortion access sometimes end with unnecessary caveats. In the movement for abortion rights and reproductive justice, we’ve all heard statements like, “I think abortion should be legal, but I don’t think people should use abortion as birth control,” or “I support abortion rights, but I don't think people should have [insert arbitrary number here] abortions.”
But in reality, some people have multiple abortions — and that’s okay.
Birth control, ovulation, pregnancy, and abortion — the facts
- No form of birth control is 100% effective. It’s unrealistic to expect that a person who will ovulate several hundred times in their life can avoid unintended pregnancy 100% of the time — or that they’ll only need one abortion.
- Abortion care is a safe, effective type of medical care. In-clinic procedural abortions are safer than getting your wisdom teeth out, and medication abortions are safer than Tylenol.
- About 1 in 4 people who can get pregnant will have an abortion(s) in their lifetime.
- About 6 in 10 abortion seekers are already parents.
So why do we judge people for having multiple abortions?
Abortion is still a taboo subject, and conversations about abortion care are often shrouded in stigma.
Many people consciously or subconsciously believe that there are “good” and “bad” reasons for having abortions. In the reproductive justice movement, we call this belief an “abortion hierarchy” — and it’s inextricably linked to slut-shaming and sex negativity.
For example, someone who believes in abortion hierarchies may feel that:
- It’s morally acceptable for a parent to terminate a pregnancy since they want to care for the child(ren) they already have, but it’s less acceptable for someone with no children who’s had several abortions to terminate another pregnancy.
- It’s morally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from rape, but it’s less acceptable to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from consensual, casual sex.
Unlearning abortion hierarchies
We can’t know everyone’s reasons for having abortions — and we don’t need to. There’s no “good” or “bad” reason to have an abortion, and we certainly don’t need opinions about when it’s acceptable to have abortions codified into law.
There’s no limit at which we can or should say, “that’s enough abortions for you.” Abortions do not gradually diminish your right to make decisions about your body each time you have one.
We’re allowed to have sex. We’re allowed to have sex with or without contraceptives. We can encourage people to use contraceptives and to have safer sex as much as we want, but it’s not our place to make decisions about others’ bodies on their behalf.
Abortion hierarchies enable abortion bans
Abortion hierarchies are often used to justify abortion bans that include rape & incest exceptions.
In practice, rape and incest exceptions don’t work — they create barriers to care. Depending on their state’s law, rape and incest survivors must take on the additional burden of filing a police report or seeing a doctor before they’re legally allowed to seek abortion care. Plus, the looming threat of criminal prosecution has left many healthcare workers afraid to provide abortions in cases of rape and incest. So even if a state’s law says rape and incest survivors can have abortions, it can be impossible to find a healthcare worker who’ll provide abortion care.
When anti-abortion politicians suggest that it’s only okay to have an abortion if your body is violated, they weaponize their constituents’ internalized abortion stigma. They appeal to our own beliefs that some abortions are more okay than others, and they get away with denying our bodily autonomy.
Your abortions are your business
Your reason for having an abortion is the right reason.
If you have one abortion, that’s your business. If you have two or three abortions, that’s still your business. If you have ten abortions, that’s still your business!
We’re here for you
There’s no limit to the number of times you can seek financial or practical support from the Baltimore Abortion Fund. If you’re a Marylander, or if you’re traveling to Maryland for an abortion, we’re here to help you access abortion care. As many times as you need.
Learn more about our services and request support at baltimoreabortionfund.org.
About our Messaging Guide
The Baltimore Abortion Fund and Pro-Choice Maryland created a Messaging Guide for Abortion Activists to provide abortion access supporters with current, reproductive justice-aligned language — not only to be transgender-inclusive, but also to discuss our rights to abortion care with accurate, stigma-busting language.