As faithful Catholics welcome the recent reports of the significant declines in abortion rates throughout the country, some on the “pro-choice” side decry the declines. One abortion advocate has actually called the decline in abortion rates a “worrisome trend” that suggests the possibility of an “increasing stigma” surrounding abortion—a change in the norms and values that have supported abortion for more than four decades now.
For some abortion rights advocates—including Steph Herold, a leader of The Sea Change, a program that is “dedicated to transforming the culture of stigma” that had historically surrounded abortion in the pre-Roe days—focusing on the declining rates “has the dangerous possibility of stigmatizing abortion.” Concerned by the media reports on declining rates of abortion, Herold complains that “Highlighting the decreased abortion rate as a success suggests that abortion is happening more than it should, and that there are some conditions for which abortions should and should not occur. It also implies that there is something wrong with abortion, that the abortion rate should be low because abortion is inherently different from other parts of health care.”
Dedicated to “reducing reproductive stigma,” the vision of The Sea Change program is to “integrate abortion and other reproductive health services into mainstream health care.” As a spokesman for Sea Change, Herold suggests that instead of focusing on the lowered abortion rate, we should be asking “how do people’s perceptions of their community’s social norms around pregnancy impact what they think they should do about an unintended pregnancy?” Herold knows that the greatest threat to abortion is not public policy mandating waiting periods or access to ultrasounds prior to abortion. She knows that the greatest threat to abortion is changing the culture of abortion—the norms, values, beliefs and behaviors that surround abortion.