205038 Perceived stigma and disclosure about abortion in the United States

Monday, November 9, 2009: 11:30 AM

Kristen M. Shellenberg, MPH , Dept. of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Lori F. Frohwirth, BA , Research, The Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY
Ann Moore, PhD , Research, The Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY
Introduction: Given the controversial nature of abortion in the United States, some women are likely to perceive stigmatization around having an abortion. It is hypothesized that abortion-related stigma prevents women from talking about their experience, which can lead to feelings of alienation and potentially impact women's stress levels and overall health. The purpose of this study is to explore the relationships between perceived stigma and disclosure about abortion.

Data collection: Quantitative data are being collected from a sample of approximately 5,000 women obtaining abortions in the United States. Additionally, we conducted 49 in-depth interviews with women at least 18 years of age on the day of their abortion or when they returned to the clinic for their follow-up appointment.

Results: Preliminary results (n= 1605) indicate that 62% of women reported perceiving stigma associated with abortion. Race and ethnicity (p<.001), educational achievement (p<.001), annual household income (p=.03) and religiosity (p=.04) were associated with perceiving stigma. Women who perceive stigma were more than 6 times more likely (p<.001) to report needing to keep their abortion a secret from close friends and family and only 25% as likely (p<.001) to report being able to talk openly about the abortion, after adjusting for potential confounders. Women's narratives revealed that their reasons for valuing secrecy were that they worried that friends and family would judge them for their decision.

Conclusion: Our findings illustrate the significant relationship between perceived stigma and disclosure, and highlight the importance of exploring the potential impact of stigma on women's health and abortion experiences.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the relationship between perceived stigma and disclosure about abortion. 2. Describe the association between women’s socio-demographic characteristics and perceived stigma. 3. Discuss the importance of exploring the potential impact of stigma on women’s health and abortion experiences.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am conducting the research for my dissertation at Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the Guttmacher Institute.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.