Women get abortions for different reasons — why it’s time we stop asking them to justify the choice

Click to play video: 'Protesters march in Alabama to denounce abortion ban'
Protesters march in Alabama to denounce abortion ban
WATCH: Protesters march in Alabama to denounce abortion ban – May 19, 2019

In certain U.S. states, politicians are passing legislation to restrict access to abortions — sparking waves of protests, activism and debates that have entered a global stage.

In Alabama, the most restrictive legislation was passed that would ban abortions unless there was a “serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother” or if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.”

It does not include an exception for cases of rape or incest.

READ MORE: Here are the U.S. states pushing to ban abortions in 2019

Other states are passing bills that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, so-called “heartbeat bills.”

In the wake of the Alabama bill, women have been speaking out on social media, sharing their reasons why they got an abortion to end the stigma.

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The hashtag #YouKnowMe was started by actress and talk show host Busy Phillips last week.

“1 in 4 women have had an abortion. Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme,” she wrote on Twitter. “So let’s do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let’s share it and start to end the shame.”

The reasons cited by women have been varied. Many say there was a medical reason, for either the fetus or for the mother.

Others cited their reasons as cases of abuse or rape.

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READ MORE: Abortion debate rages in Argentina after 11-year-old forced to give birth

But a large percentage of cite reasons like emotional well-being, financial stability or simply not wanting to be a parent.

Jessica Shaw, an assistant professor with the University of Calgary’s faculty of social work, says it’s important to shed a light on these reasons.

“There are so many other valid abortion experiences that I think sometimes get lost when we focus specifically on rape and incest,” she explained.

Access to legal and safe abortions, she added, has a direct impact on the financial, emotional, physical and social security of women around the world.

“Numerous studies have documented that being able to control if when and how many children a woman has is directly linked to her ability to live a healthy happy life,” Shaw said.

“Women who have control over their reproduction are less likely to live in poverty [and] are less likely to stay in abusive relationships. They’re more likely to pursue personal, professional and political opportunities.
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“So for all of those reasons, being able to control reproduction specifically through abortion is critical.”

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Trudeau blasts U.S. ‘backsliding’ on abortion restrictions

Demographics: Who are the women having abortions? 

Abortions span every demographic, statistics show.

As Phillips said, studies have shown one in four American women have had an abortion. And those who have had abortions come from all walks of life.

“We know globally that women of all faiths, all socioeconomic strata and women of all different cultures have abortions regardless of any of those demographic pieces,” Shaw explained.

Statistics from the U.S.-based National Abortion Federation show people from “every religious affiliation” and educational background had received an abortion.

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READ MORE: ‘End the shame’: Abortion bans in U.S. prompt surge in activism, protests

The myth of abortion as ‘primary method of birth control’

Some critics of abortion denounce the medical procedure because they say women aren’t being careful when they’re engaging in sex — and others claim women are using it as a primary method of birth control.

“If abortion were used as a primary method of birth control, a typical woman would have at least two or three pregnancies per year – 30 or more during her lifetime,” a statement from the National Abortion Federation reads.

But statistics from the federation show that’s not the case.

Shaw said that belief stems from a deep-rooted fear of women’s sexuality.

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“I think [that belief] does two things: it shames women for being sexually active but also for enjoying it, and also equates parenthood with punishment…it’s saying that because you’ve had sex if you become pregnant you must become a parent.
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“I think that equating motherhood as punishment for having sex is quite twisted.”

— with a file from Andrew Russell

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