“Abortion debate divides candidates in Georgia’s 6th District race,” reads the AJC headline.
Calling it the “abortion debate” obscures the larger issues. On an individual level, we are all driven by a complicated set of values, life experiences and social norms that guide our own individual feelings about any number of issues, including abortion.
On a policy level, however, there’s no debate: abortion care should be offered without stigma, shame or misinformation. And on this point, there is a strong consensus: seventy percent of Americans believe abortion should remain legal and support Roe v. Wade, according to the Pew Research Center.
One in three cisgender women will have an abortion in her lifetime, which means everyone loves someone who has had an abortion — whether or not they know it.
“When we discuss abortion, it is not solely about the medical procedure itself, but it is also about the people who have or have had an abortion,” Quita Tinsley, the Deputy Director at Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, told Better Georgia.
“Harmful beliefs about abortion have harmful impacts on people who have had abortions or will have an abortion. Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion, and we must have conversations about abortion that reflect this love,” she added.
When we are asked to support a person in our lives who is going to have or has had an abortion, it’s often not political rhetoric that guides how we act, but our values. It may be important for us to support friends and family in times of crisis or to trust the people we care about to make the best decisions for themselves.
In terms of people’s personal values and beliefs — and how they wrestle with them at different points in their lives — there is a much more complicated spectrum of beliefs about abortion than “pro” or “anti,” despite how the AJC (and many other media outlets) frames this story.
In terms of the policy crafted on the local, state and federal levels, however, it is imperative that anyone who seeks an abortion be able to access safe, legal, supportive abortion care. On this, there is no debate.
“Abortion access is an important part of the full range of reproductive healthcare services. Our ability to make the best decisions for our bodies and families should never be debated, particularly by those we elect to politically represent us,” Tinsley said.
Pregnant people’s lives are on the line. When a pregnant person cannot legally access an abortion, the consequences are harrowing. Women who live in countries that still ban abortion die because they have complications from illegal abortions or because cannot access this essential form of reproductive healthcare, even when their body is unable to carry a pregnancy to term.
Some of the oldest medical texts we have — dating back nearly four thousand years — describe procedures for having an abortion. Changing laws around abortion access do not and will never stop people from having abortions, they only change who is able to safely access abortion care. The amount of money in a person’s bank account, the type of health insurance a person has or the place a person lives should not dictate the health outcomes they will face — including whether or not a person can access safe, legal abortion care.
Coincidentally this week is Abortion Love week, a campaign that groups like Access Reproductive Care – Southeast are spearheading across the nation to have honest conversations about abortion in their communities.
“Abortion Love week is a time for us to have bold conversations about abortion that center love and work to end the shame and stigma that have lasting impacts on the people we love,” Tinsley explained. ARC-SE will be hosting a night for writing thank you letters to abortion providers.
As long as abortion is stigmatized, it will continue to be “debated.” But it’s not really a debate: we all love someone who has had an abortion. It’s time we start talking about it that way.