Resistance and vulnerability to stigmatization in abortion work

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Nov;73(9):1357-64. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.08.019. Epub 2011 Sep 10.


The stigma surrounding abortion in the United States commonly permeates the experience of both those seeking this health service as well as those engaged in its provision. Annually there are approximately 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States; despite that existing research shows that abortion services are highly utilized, women rarely disclose their use of these services. In 2005 only 1787 facilities that offer abortion services remained, a drop of almost 40 percent since 1982 (Jones, Zolna, Henshaw, & Finer, 2008). While it has been acknowledged that all professionals working in abortion are labeled to some degree as different, no published research has explored stigmatization as a process experienced by the range of individuals that comprise the abortion-providing workforce in the USA. Using qualitative data from a group of healthcare professionals doing abortion work in a Western state, this study begins to fill that gap, providing evidence of how the experience of stigma can vary and is managed within interactions in the workplace, in professional circles, among family and friends, and among strangers. The analysis shows that the experience of stigma for those providing abortion care is not a static or fixed loss of status. It is a dynamic situation in which those vulnerable to stigmatization can avoid, resist, or transform the stigma that would attach to them by varying degrees within selective contexts.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Social Stigma*
  • United States
  • Workforce