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Op-ed encourages women to #ShoutYourAbortion in response to restrictions, stigma

In an opinion piece for ABC.net, columnist Jane Caro calls on women to participate in the #ShoutYourAbortion movement in response to Pope Francis' decision to let priests absolve women for obtaining abortion care and other antiabortion-rights efforts.

Caro 'felt nothing but relief' after her own abortion experience

Caro, who lives in Australia, shares that she sought abortion care in her early 20s, after her contraception failed, and "felt nothing but relief" when the procedure was over. "I did not regret my decision then and I have never regretted it since," she writes.

Caro notes that she has always been open about her abortion experience. She shares how in previous conversations with religious and political leaders in Australia, she explained how requiring abortion care "is not something that only happens to not-very-nice-women who you never meet in polite society," but rather "a possibility for every woman who has heterosexual, penetrative sex."

Caro writes, "Abortion is common -- especially, according to a new study, among religious women. It is so common, in fact, that if you are a person with rigid views on abortion, someone in your life is probably lying to you about having had one."

Threat to reproductive rights requires action

According to Caro, the "arrogance" behind the idea that women require forgiveness for accessing abortion care "is part of the reason why [she] think[s] women should speak out about -- or 'shout' -- their abortion."

Noting that abortion care "is a normal ... part of many women's lives," Caro writes, "Shaming women for seeking [abortion care], whatever the reason, keeps us silent, and that silence perpetuates the cycle of shame." She adds, "[W]ith reproductive rights under threat all over the world, particularly in the United States, where President-elect Donald Trump has promised to further restrict access to abortion, we must no longer be silent."

Caro calls on women who have accessed abortion care to share their stories if they are able, either in personal conversation, the online #ShoutYourAbortion movement or any other "way you see fit." She writes, "When you shout out your abortion, you pass on your courage to others" and "you may actually save lives."

She explains that "[c]ountries with very restrictive abortion laws -- such as Chile, Brazil, Poland and Ireland -- have higher levels of maternal mortality than those that do not." Further, Caro notes that in the United States, the deaths from officially reported incidents of self-induced abortion care declined from 200 women per year to three per year following the Supreme Court's decision to legalize abortion in Roe v. Wade. She writes, "It seems [abortion-rights opponents] are much more interested in using pregnancy, particularly the [unintended] kind, as a way of controlling women and limiting their rights, liberty and opportunity."

Caro concludes, "If you have had an abortion, do not be ashamed of it. You are in good company. Shout it out and help lift the shame for all the other women who have also decided" to support abortion rights (Caro, ABC.net, 11/25).