Public support for abortion in the UK is significantly higher than previously thought, new research from Marie Stopes International has found.
Nine in 10 UK adults now believe that women should be able to access abortion services in the UK, with men and women’s attitudes almost identical at 91% for women and 88% for men.
The survey of 5,098 UK adults, commissioned with YouGov, shows a dramatic increase in support from 2017, when a British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey put public support at 70% if a woman wanted to end a pregnancy.
The research also found men to be overwhelmingly supportive of their sexual partners’ decisions, with 91% of men believing it’s important to provide emotional support if their sexual partner is considering an abortion.
Yet despite the figures confirming across the board support for pro-choice legislation, stigma around the subject means many still find it difficult to talk about their experiences, leaving many women facing the procedure alone. This situation is then exacerbated by the anti-abortion groups that gather outside clinics with the sole aim of shaming women into continuing an unwanted pregnancy.
Jonathan Lord, Marie Stopes UK’s Medical Director said:
“The UK is overwhelmingly pro-choice, yet in public debate, anti-choice views are often given equal weighting. This leaves women feeling judged and stigmatised and both men and women shamed into silence about their opinions, experiences and understanding of abortion.
“We hear from women who attend appointments alone because they are too frightened to tell their sexual partner, and men who need more knowledge and tools to support their sexual partner fully.”
The survey found that just over a third of men (34%) feel uninformed about the topic of abortion and more than 4 in 10 (42%) would like more information to be made available to them.
Steffan, 25, from London, is pro-choice and wanted to be there for his sexual partner Katriana when she decided to have an abortion but the silence around the issue meant he didn’t know how or when to support.
“When I found out Katriana was pregnant, I was scared. Firstly, I was shocked as she was using contraception, then I was worried about how she was mentally and physically.
“We both felt like an abortion was the right thing to do, but although I’ve always been pro-choice, looking back I didn’t really know anything about abortion.
“It wasn’t something I’d talked about and I didn’t know of anyone who had been through one. I didn’t want to tell my friends or my parents, so I only told my brother.
“We talked on the phone and met up before the appointment happened, but after she’d had the abortion, I felt like I’d fulfilled my role. I don’t think I had a real awareness of the situation because I didn’t attend the appointments, and if you aren’t there, you feel removed from the situation.
“I know Katriana felt like I didn’t support her fully during the abortion, and in hindsight I would have been there for her more, before and after.”
His girlfriend at the time, Katriana Ciccotto, 25 from London, said:
“My sexual partner at the time was supportive at first but the closer I got to the date of the procedure, the less supportive he got – that was a really hard pill to swallow and made the experience more difficult. I felt let down and thought maybe he thought badly of me.
“I was googling stories about abortion, looking on YouTube, but there was nothing I could relate to. I know if I had been able to find stories about other women, I would have felt less alone.”
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