Abortion is a relatively frequent experience, yet public discourse about abortion is contentious and stigmatizing. Little literature is available on private conversations about abortion, which may be distinct from public discourse. We explored private discourse by documenting the nature of women's discussions about abortion with peers in a book club. We recruited thirteen women's book clubs in nine states. Participants (n = 119) read the book Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, & Abortion, and participated in a book club meeting, which we audio-recorded and transcribed. Data collection occurred between April 2012 and April 2013. In contrast to public discourse of abortion, private discourse was nuanced and included disclosures of multiple kinds of experiences with abortion. Participants disclosed having abortions, considering abortion as an option for past or future pregnancies, and supporting others through an abortion. Distinguishing between public and private discourse enabled us to identify that an "abortion experience" could include personal decisions, hypothetical decisions, or connection with someone having an abortion. The book club atmosphere provided a rare opportunity for participants to explore their relationship to abortion. More research is needed to understand the role of private discourse in reducing abortion stigma.
Keywords: abortion; abortion stigma; behavior; private discourse; qualitative research.