Public Perception and the Weaponization of Shame

Jennifer M Koskinen
6 min readJan 22, 2020
2020 Womxn’s March in Denver | photo by Jennifer Koskinen

ON THE 47TH ANNIVERSARY of Roe v. Wade (a ruling which didn’t begin abortions, but ended an era of women needlessly dying from them), and against the backdrop of anti-abortion measures being pushed through state legislatures across the country in record numbers— in the year 2020 — I am once again thinking about the time, just a few months ago, when my sister texted me this question:

“Without using google, what percentage of pregnancies would you estimate are terminated in the United States?”

As I stared at her text, blinking, it dawned on me that, despite how passionate I am about reproductive choice as a fundamental human right, I had absolutely no idea.

I thought about the fact that there are several states down to low single digit numbers of abortion providers. I thought states like Missouri, where there’s only ONE abortion provider left in the entire state (and the state recently had to back off a new cruel requirement of state sanctioned sexual assault in the form of compulsory, medically unnecessary vaginal exams on women prior to their unnecessary three day waiting period before terminating a pregnancy).

I thought about my own circle of friends and the sum total of first hand stories I’ve heard over the course of my life as a 48 year old woman. Not exactly scientific, but anecdotal stories should be at least a starting point, shouldn’t they?

(as an aside, anecdotal stories might be a better starting point if shame weren’t such a powerful societal disincentive around sharing personal details involving abortion)

The percentage undoubtedly had to be quite small, right?

I took a shot and texted her back.

“Less than 1%?”

My sister replied that several of her friends had guessed the same exact percentage.

“The actual number…”

She hit send after three dots to pause, I assume, for maximum dramatic effect. Or perhaps she was giving me time to re-evaluate my answer.

(and now I’m pausing to allow you, reader, to take a stab at your own number)

Her text finally pinged to my phone.

Jennifer M Koskinen

photographer | writer | tree-hugger