If you’ve been following the movement of anti-abortion bills HB 453 and SB 405 through the North Carolina legislature these past few weeks, you’ve likely been as frustrated as advocates have been. Once again, our elected officials are spending time and energy to push forward unnecessary and unpopular restrictions on abortion access. Unless you’ve attended the committee meetings and floor votes in person or streamed the audio online, however, you’ve probably missed the shaming language, misleading and false statements, and demeaning stereotypes being pushed by the bills’ supporters about who accesses and who provides abortions in North Carolina.

What passes for debate on abortion access at the North Carolina legislature, and often within the general public discourse, typically plays loose with actual facts and depends heavily on false and stigmatizing narratives deliberately created and pushed by people opposed to abortion. These narratives are absorbed and internalized by many people that often don’t have the needed accurate and comprehensive information about the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion, contraception, pregnancy, sexuality, and infertility. Due to the stigma surrounding much of what is considered “women’s health care,” too few people are willing to openly and honestly discuss these topics, especially in a public setting like the General Assembly, leaving misinformation and lies unchallenged. This silence then helps move proposed unnecessary abortion restrictions into law, leading to additional stigma and dis/misinformation as people seeking abortion care are further shamed and vilified for seeking out the care they need. And the cycle of stigma and restrictions continues.

As elected officials discuss, argue, and create policies that may or may not impact them personally but will significantly impact people across the state, including people seeking and providing abortion access, we need to change this stigmatizing and dehumanizing narrative.

During these recent legislative debates, advocates for abortion access and bodily autonomy, including healthcare professionals, faith leaders, racial justice advocates, and disability rights groups, have spoken compassionately and eloquently about the need to trust people making the best decisions for themselves and their families, and also the need to prioritize policies that will actually address the gender, racial, and disability discrimination faced every day by people across the state. In response, supporters of these anti-abortion bills have pushed condescending, inaccurate, misleading, racist, sexist, ableist, and inflammatory rhetoric and talking points. We’ve listened to anti-abortion lawmakers and their supporters misuse religion to justify their views. They disparage people who seek abortion as acting out of fear or personal weakness. They denigrate medical professionals as unprofessional, pushy, and incompetent. They offensively co-opt the language of both disability rights and racial justice, often attempting to explain Black North Carolinians’ experience of racism to them rather than listening and understanding the stories their Black colleagues and constituents share.

At NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, we work to bust abortion stigma and change the narrative as a way toward ensuring all people can access the reproductive health care they need. Join us by raising your voice! You can be part of the traditional media conversation by writing an op-ed or letter to the editor to help challenge the typical narrative around abortion access.

Stay up-to-date on what’s happening—at the legislature, at clinics, at local events around the state—and learn how you can get involved in the fight for reproductive freedom for all by signing up for our email notifications.

Together, we can create a world that supports the personal reproductive healthcare decisions we all make for ourselves.

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