Abortion Talk is a charity committed to destigmatising abortion – one conversation at a time – because the simple act of talking breaks the cycle of stigma-induced silence. They operate a Talkline for those with abortion experiences, deliver workshops to abortion providers, and work with stakeholder organisations to raise awareness of abortion stigma and its impacts.
We sat down with Abortion Talk’s Coordinator Franki Appleton to discuss the organisation, the importance of creating a safe, non-judgemental space for people to reflect on their experiences of abortion, and how the audience can support Abortion Talk.
“The simple act of talking about abortion breaks the cycle of stigma-induced silence.”
Can you give us a brief introduction to Abortion Talk?
“Abortion Talk is a charity committed to fighting abortion stigma. Whether you’ve accessed abortion care, are thinking about it or work in abortion care, Abortion Talk aims to encourage and facilitate conversations about abortion with individuals and communities. These conversations make sure people feel heard, valued, and help them receive the support they want and need.
The charity operates a Talkline for those with abortion experiences (be that considering abortion, having had abortions, supporting those seeking abortions or providing abortion care); delivers workshops to abortion providers; and works with stakeholder organisations to raise awareness of abortion stigma and its impacts.”
How does Abortion Talk aim to tackle abortion stigma?
“Abortion stigma comes from many places. From the media, from anti-choice groups and individuals, from medically unnecessary abortion laws, from myths about abortion, from societies’ gendered expectations of motherhood. Fear of being stigmatised for our abortion decisions can make us feel unable to talk about our experiences when we want to.
Abortion Talk aims to destigmatise abortion – one conversation at a time – because the simple act of talking breaks the cycle of stigma-induced silence.”
What is the Abortion Talk Talkline?
“Abortion talk runs a free, confidential Talkline, creating a safe, non-judgemental space for people to chat freely and anonymously about their views and reflect on their experiences of abortion. This may include abortion providers, other professionals involved in abortion, those who have had or are considering having an abortion, and those who have supported loved ones with their abortion care decisions.
People may not have heard of a “Talkline” before, but we chose to use this term to put the act of talking front and centre and distance ourselves from phoney, anti-abortion “helplines” which make abortion seekers or those with abortion experiences feel judged and shamed. The caller leads the conversation rather than the Talkline volunteers, who provide a listening ear without offering advice or solutions. When talking is key to dismantling stigma and feeling ownership of one’s own decisions, it can be a very powerful thing.
The Talkline is led by trained pro-choice and pro-voice volunteers who all participate in a bespoke training course, including safeguarding training and practice sessions, delivered by (the amazing) Jane Calvert, who has worked in abortion services for 35 years.
People who call the Talkline cover a range of topics that link to their personal experiences of abortion, from the options they are considering to their personal and professional relationships, their emotions around their decisions, how they feel about themselves. For the most part, they just want someone to chat to. Ultimately, the Talkline volunteers are there to have a non-judgemental conversation with the caller about anything they’d like to talk about. Callers have often told Abortion Talk they’re glad they exist as they had felt very alone before reaching out.”
The Talkline is available on Mondays and Wednesdays, from 7pm – 10pm on 03330 909 266. People can call as many times as they want.
What is the difference between the Abortion Talk Talkline and counselling?
“The Talkline is a safe space to talk, but it is not a counselling service, and the Talkline volunteers are not counsellors. There are no appointments (just call as and when), no identifiable information is taken, and callers may speak to a different volunteer each time. The Talkline volunteers are there to listen and offer space for people to reflect on their experiences. This is similar to the way talking therapies are structured and so both the Talkline and further counselling can be complementary, which is why abortion providers may signpost people to call Abortion Talk while they wait for their counselling appointments. Abortion Talk volunteers may also signpost callers to counselling services if the caller or Talkline volunteer feels that would be beneficial.”
What are the Provider Support and Abortion Conversations Workshops run by Abortion Talk?
“Provider Support Workshops aim to affirm the value of providers, reinforce their commitment to abortion care-related work, and help to create connections with colleagues, as well as improving the general wellbeing of participants.
These workshops create a space for healthcare professionals providing abortion-related care to explore the rewards and challenges of working in this field, including the emotional aspects of their work and the impact of abortion-related stigma on their wellbeing. These workshops also share new research in abortion stigma and how abortion access is affected.
Abortion Talk also run Abortion Conversations Workshops with community organisations to look at abortion stigma and how they can support their community and individuals who may want to talk to them about their own abortion experiences.”
You can arrange workshops for your organisation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’ve always believed in the power of language and sharing stories in dismantling abortion stigma.”
When and why did you start working for Abortion Talk?
“I’m Abortion Talk’s Coordinator, so I look after the day-to-day organisation of our brilliant volunteers and working groups, and work to spread awareness of Abortion Talk and the ways people can support our Charity. I previously worked at MSI Reproductive Choices for five and a half years, was a representative in pro-choice coalitions and networks such as Voice for Choice, and was an Executive Committee Member of Abortion Rights for two years.
I’ve always believed in the power of language and sharing stories in dismantling abortion stigma. It can be scary to reach out and talk about personal abortion experiences because the loud anti-choice minority creates this picture of a judgemental society in your head that perpetuates the stigma, so you’re never quite sure how people might react. I was always a little anxious to answer the dreaded “so what do you do?” question when meeting strangers in a pub, at a wedding or a friend’s birthday. But as I got more confident talking about abortion, I realised that the overwhelming majority of people are pro-choice, accepting, genuinely enthusiastic about reproductive rights, or go on to share their own abortion experiences with me. This is why this charity is so important. Silence perpetuates abortion stigma, so let’s talk about it.”
What can people do to support Abortion Talk?
Abortion Talk are incredibly grateful for the support they have received so far! But, they need your help to keep the conversation going.
If you believe that no one should feel stigmatised for their abortion decisions, or for working as an abortion provider, you can: