Although one in three British women will have an abortion during their lifetime, the decision to terminate a pregnancy continues to be stigmatised. Many women who have an abortion will internalise that stigma, and experience isolation and shame as a result. This may explain some of the negative aspects of abortion experiences, and why some people wish to conceal it. ‘My Body My Life’ is a public engagement project that seeks to address this stigma around abortion by bringing real stories of abortion into the open. These stories show how an unplanned pregnancy is a part of so many people’s lives, how different people have made their decision about having an abortion, and what the process was like for them. Our hope is that by creating a space in which everyone can share their stories, the project will contribute to opening up conversations about real experiences of abortion – positive and negative – to enable us all to speak, to listen, and to understand without judgment.
On this website, visitors can read people’s stories of abortion in their own words. Originally collected as part of Open University (OU) research into women’s experiences of abortion, this research has grown into a broad public engagement project co-led by OU and the University of Oxford. It now includes this website, a travelling multi-media exhibition and a booklet of abortion stories that is available at BPAS clinics across the country.
Visitors to the exhibition have the opportunity to read people’s abortion stories, watch their video stories, explore the abortion stories displayed in our clothing display, and, if they wish, contribute their own story in our swing-tag display. The exhibition is staffed by collaborators and volunteers who will be available to discuss the project and abortion generally and refer visitors to other services if needed.
The experience of people who are not women, who need and use abortion care is often hidden and may be even more taboo and stigmatised than that of cis women. Moreover, their access to reproductive health services is often extremely problematic.
My Body My Life welcomes stories about the abortion experience of trans men, non-binary people, intersex people, and anyone who does not identify with the term ‘woman’. This will enable us to increase visibility and understanding of these experiences.
We have used the terms ‘people’ and ‘women’ in different parts of the text. Where we have chosen to use the word woman this is because:
all participants in the original research identified as women.
the vast majority of people who have abortions identify as women, and a significant proportion of women will have an abortion. Recognising that abortion is a common and ordinary element of women's reproductive life is important if we are to destigmatise it
It is impossible to address abortion stigma without recognising that much of the stigma attached to abortion is underpinned by the systemic oppression of cis women and their bodies.
Since 2017 the exhibition has visited a range of public venues in Edinburgh, Oxford and Belfast ; and been hosted at several conferences in England and France
MyBodyMyLife has been presented with two research awards in recognition of our work tackling abortion-related stigma:
University of Oxford, O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards 2018 – Highly Commended (April 2018)
The Open University, Outstanding Impact of Research on Society and Prosperity Award – Runner up (July 2018)
We are still sharing stories and hope to get the exhibition back on the road later in 2020.
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