A critical commentary: Abortion stigma standing in the way of reproductive justice


  • Liz Beddoe University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa, New Zealand https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7953-7369
  • Eden V. Clarke University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa, New Zealand


Abortion, abortion stigma, reproductive justice, reproductive rights


INTRODUCTION: Abortion is part of reproductive healthcare problematised within politically charged debates, leading to ongoing attempts to control access. The lens of reproductive justice encompasses the right to choose to have, or not have a child, and the right to experience the enabling conditions to act on that choice. Abortion as part of health care is often limited by stigma, place and culture, as well as the regulatory environment.

APPROACH:  In light of the recent changes to abortion law in Aotearoa New Zealand it is timely to review what is known about the impact of abortion stigma. Legal changes may improve access, but stigma endures. In a rapid research scan, we reviewed scholarly articles that address abortion stigma published between 2009 and 2023.

FINDINGS: Our review identified two temporal frames: consistency of abortion stigma over time and changes over time. Within the frame of consistency over time, we identified three enduring themes in this body of literature, namely the impact of religion/religiosity, the personification of the foetus, and secrecy.  More recent scholarship addresses the intersectional dimensions of abortion stigma, abortion and the online environment, and the focus on the wider targets of abortion stigma.

CONCLUSIONS: Social workers benefit from an understanding of how various forms of stigma impact on the lives of people we support. Abortion stigma has similar impacts as stigma in mental health or disability and its elimination should be supported by social work.


Author Biography

Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau, Aotearoa, New Zealand



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How to Cite

Beddoe, L., & Clarke, E. (2023). A critical commentary: Abortion stigma standing in the way of reproductive justice. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(4), 125–135. Retrieved from https://anzswjournal.nz/anzsw/article/view/1127