Only one in three women would tell their family if they were considering an abortion, according to a new poll.
Nine-in-ten women identify as pro-choice but experts say there is still a stigma in discussing a termination.
A survey of 2,684 women for Marie Stopes International, which provides abortions, found most would hide the issue from their family.
Just over a third (34%) would speak to their friends and only 62% would tell their partner.
Some 6% of women would not talk to anyone apart from a medical professional about their decision, the survey found.
Of the women polled, 92% said they were pro-choice and 79% said abortion should be talked about more openly.
The charity has launched a new campaign – #SmashAbortionStigma – in a bid to help women feel ‘informed, educated and supported’ about their choices.
It is backed by Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen, novelist Marian Keyes and Derry Girls actress Siobhan McSweeney.
Amy, 28, had an abortion when she was 17 after her contraception failed.
She said: ‘Even though I was completely confident in my choice, I only told a few people at the time. In hindsight, I felt silenced because it wasn’t something people spoke about.
‘The day after my abortion, I went back to college. My teacher asked me if I was feeling better and I remember nodding, trying not to cry.
‘It wasn’t the abortion that upset me, I was upset that I couldn’t tell the truth – I felt as though I had a dirty little secret that I couldn’t share with anyone.
‘As I grew older, I started to realise that I wasn’t ashamed of my abortion. It was the responsible thing to do for my own happiness.’
Amity, 40, is a registered midwife and works in abortion care. She became pregnant while her husband was on the waiting list for a vasectomy and her children were nine and 11 at the time.
She said: ‘When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I didn’t want to start all over again. I told my husband and a few close friends who were very supportive, and it gave me the chance to talk through my options before I came to the decision.
‘Although I am generally quite open about my abortion, even I don’t always feel comfortable talking about it.
‘When I went back to work, I didn’t tell people why I had been off in case they were taken aback.’
Katriana, 24, from London felt she could not tell her Catholic parents about her decision.
She added: ‘I thought about telling my friends but I didn’t want to burden anyone with what I was going through. I lost so much sleep in the two-and-a-half week wait between the phone call and the procedure and it was such a stressful, dark time.
‘It was really sad because I needed support from someone close to me and I was on my own.’ Katriana burst into tears at work and her boss persuaded her to tell her mother.
She added: ‘I couldn’t look her in the eye as I told her, but my mum held my hand and told me that she understood and that she had also had an abortion at a similar age to me – telling her was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
‘If I had been able to find stories of other women, it would have helped me to recover from my experience so much quicker. It was the stigma that made me feel guilty and made me feel like I was doing something wrong.’
Holly, 26, was in a controlling and emotionally volatile relationship and said while her parents were supportive, her partner made her feel guilty for discussing it.
She added: ‘I think it’s really important that we are able to talk about abortion more openly. Abortion is not shameful, an embarrassment, or wrong. It should be every woman’s right.’
Dr Caroline Gazet, clinical director for Marie Stopes UK, said: ‘In the UK, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, yet we know that abortion stigma can make women feel judged, shamed and silenced.
‘Women want to talk, and our research shows that open and honest conversations about abortion help women and girls feel informed, educated and supported when it comes to making their own choices about their own bodies.
‘The UK is a pro-choice nation, but with a small minority of anti-choice voices threatening abortion rights worldwide, it is more important than ever that we smash abortion stigma and champion the right of women to access abortion care.’
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