Carrie Purcell


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    This paper reflects on findings from several recent studies on abortion in Scotland. These have examined experiences of earlier/later abortion, more than one abortion, and of working in abortion provision. Together they constitute a rich body of data illustrating manifestations of abortion stigma; feelings which abortion may evoke (such as shame, disgust), and ways in which stigma is resisted/rejected. Qualitative secondary analysis of these data highlights that negative attitudes toward abortion continue to prevail - and to shape experiences of those seeking and providing it – but that positive accounts also emerge and merit further attention. Foregrounding positive accounts contributes to understanding of abortion stigma, and of what alternative orientations to abortion might look like, in a way that is grounded in women’s lived experiences. Our analysis also suggests that, even in a context where it has been safely, legally provided for 50 years, women who have undergone abortion nevertheless find it difficult to escape cultural narratives which position it as highly negative and taboo. Our findings point to the need to further address abortion stigma and negativity head-on, and to collaboratively shift the narrative towards abortion positivity.