Commentary: Want to really help moms and kids in Orange County? Share your abortion story

A person types on a laptop keyboard.
Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties wants to hear from people who had abortions.
(Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

May is full of Mother’s Day tributes on social media and elsewhere. Those are nice, but if we really want to show appreciation for moms, we need to fight back against attacks on reproductive healthcare, bodily autonomy and abortion rights nationwide. To do that, we need to make it less scary to talk about abortion.

When parents can choose when and how many children to have, their families are healthier. That’s not a political statement, that’s a research-backed fact. To have this choice, every person in America needs access to abortion care and other reproductive healthcare, including comprehensive sexual health education and birth control. Those things are all under attack now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade and take away the federal right to an abortion.

Future generations of children will suffer if women don’t have the control over their bodies that our parents and grandparents once did. At Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties (PPOSBC), we are fighting to keep these rights from eroding here in California, even as they fall in other states. But there’s one major roadblock to our efforts: many people are afraid to talk about their experience having an abortion, which means that the voices of extreme, politically-motivated abortion opponents are the loudest. Here’s why we need more people in Orange County to share their abortion stories with us and the impact it could have.


Destigmatizing abortion helps families

There is still unfortunately a stigma around abortion in our country, meaning many people may consciously or unconsciously think it is wrong or shameful. The current political climate, in which lawmakers in states across the country are restricting or banning abortion, is a direct result of anti-abortion extremists fueling the stigma against abortion, claiming falsely that abortion rights are bad for families.

But the fact is, abortion is incredibly safe, common and vital for strong parents and families. In fact, many women who have abortions are already parents and simply trying to be the best parent for the children they already have. So when we talk about abortion openly, we destigmatize it, making it less threatening.

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, children born to women with abortion access had lower rates of poverty during childhood; were more likely to graduate from college; and less likely to be single parents or receive public assistance as adults. Research also found that abortion legalization in the 1970s increased Black women’s rates of high school graduation and college attendance in states where they had access.

Meanwhile, abortion restrictions are worse for parents and children, especially lower-income families. According to the landmark Turnaway Study, being denied an abortion seriously hurts a woman’s health and well-being. Further research shows that children born to mothers with restricted abortion access had a greater likelihood of being unemployed at age 37 and a higher probability of being a teen parent. And, according to a 2017 study conducted well before Roe was overturned, the more abortion restrictions a state has, the worse women and children fare.

The threat to families now

Twelve states have now banned abortion, and another 10 have severely restricted access. This is already having tragic impacts on people’s lives and inhibiting doctors’ ability to provide other critical care, including for patients experiencing miscarriages. This environment has also emboldened anti-abortion extremists in state legislatures to further ignore reality and propose bans on things like comprehensive sex education or discussing menstruation in schools.

Many federal lawmakers are actively pursuing a nationwide ban on abortion, which would affect us in Orange County, even though abortion is legal here. This will hurt our children and their children unless we collectively act.

So what can you do?

If you or your partner have had an abortion and it changed your life for the better, share your story with us at PPOSBC, so we can share it more widely and change the narrative around abortion in America.

Don’t have a story to share? Urge your friends and relatives to share theirs. Talk to your friends and family about abortion, even when it’s uncomfortable. Call or email your representative in Congress and urge them to support the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) and the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH) Act. Research and vote for candidates at every level of government who support abortion access. Support your local Planned Parenthood. Show your support for doctors who provide abortion.

We at PPOSBC can share all the facts we want about abortion, but in order to truly have a chance at changing hearts, minds and policies, we need real stories. Sharing yours will truly help moms and families in Orange County.

Andrea Schmidt is the public affairs project manager for Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties.