As a young person growing up in rural Georgia, I mostly heard about abortion in coded language, typically through gossip. When folks said, “well you know she went to Atlanta or Savannah,” they were insinuating that someone had gone to have an abortion in one of the closest cities with clinics.
As I grew up, I continued this ‘mum’s the word’ attitude towards the word abortion, even though I held staunchly pro-abortion beliefs. While I spoke extensively of reproductive justice in my communities, it was rare to hear me talk about abortion access explicitly. Over a year ago when I was offered the opportunity to apply for the board of an abortion fund, I jumped at the chance to confront my internalized stigma.
Abortion access in the South is severely limited. Every single state in the Southeast has mandatory waiting periods, which can add additional 24 to 72 hours to the time it takes to have a procedure done. Targeted regulations of abortion providers (also known as TRAP laws) have resulted in clinic closures across the South, which force people seeking abortions to travel for hours and across state borders just to access abortion care. Unfortunately, the presence of harmful crisis pregnancy centers have expanded to fill this gap, and now significantly outnumber abortion clinics – for example in Mississippi, where there are 38 crisis pregnancy centers and one abortion clinic. Across the South, most folks have little to no access to unbiased information or long-term reproductive care.