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How We Talk When We Talk About Abortion

Women take part in a 1977 demonstration in New York demanding safe legal abortions for all women.
Peter Keegan/Keystone/Getty Images)=
Women take part in a 1977 demonstration in New York demanding safe legal abortions for all women.

Access to abortion is changing, and so is the way we talk about it.

Some of those who are favor of reproductive rights have used the phrase “safe, legal and rare” as a key part of their platform for decades.

But now, some advocates say that phrase is too stigmatizing, and that we shouldn’t be afraid to center abortion access.

Journalist Anna North of Vox wrote about how the way progressive politicians talk about abortion is changing.

But over the years, abortion rights advocates have pushed back against the phrase. “Safe, legal, and rare” implies that getting an abortion is something that “you should be apologetic for,” reproductive justice activist Renee Bracey Sherman told Vox. “It places the blame on the person who’s had an abortion, as if they just did something wrong to need one, rather than addressing the systemic issue as to why someone might not be able to have access to consistent health care or contraception.”

We explore how the rhetoric around abortion has changed, and what that means for the future of the pro-choice (or abortion rights) movement.


Anna North, Senior reporter, Vox; @annanorthtweets

Pamela Maraldo, CEO, Girls Inc. of New York City; former Planned Parenthood president

Renee Bracey Sherman, Reproductive justice activist; @RBraceySherman

For more, visit

© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2019 WAMU 88.5

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