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“My Abortion Made Me a Good Mom”: An Analysis of the Use of Motherhood Identity to Dispel Abortion Stigma

Reproduction, Health, and Medicine

ISBN: 978-1-78756-172-4, eISBN: 978-1-78756-171-7

Publication date: 22 November 2019


This chapter examines how women deploy gendered motherhood norms to publicly challenge abortion stigma. Drawing on a sample of 41 abortion stories from women living in Tennessee, I find that women evoke notions of intensive, total, and idealized motherhood in order to manage and challenge the stigma of an abortion. A large proportion of these stories were written by married mothers who emphasized their identities as good mothers and wives. A close qualitative analysis of these trends reveals two dominant forms of recasting abortion. First, abortion is framed as an extension of total mothering to spare an unborn baby from risky health conditions. Part of this includes casting abortion as an often-necessary choice in order for a woman to develop into the perfect mother for the benefit of her children – altruistic self-development. Second, abortion is construed as a form of maternal protection of current children to continue intensively mothering them. Both themes speak to women’s strategies for reframing abortion as a health practice to promote the well-being of children. These findings have implications for the study of medical stigma, reproduction, and the impact of gender ideals on women’s health choices.




I am grateful to Laura Carpenter for reading through early drafts of this chapter, Lizzy Thomas and the TN Advocates for Planned Parenthood team for their help and support, and Tim Valshtein for his comments. I also would like to thank the editors of this special issue, particularly Susan Markens for her support and feedback, and the two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andréa Becker, CUNY Graduate Center 365 5th Ave Room 6112.04, NY, NY, 10016 USA; e-mail: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program under Grant No. (2018259906). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Becker, A. (2019), "“My Abortion Made Me a Good Mom”: An Analysis of the Use of Motherhood Identity to Dispel Abortion Stigma", Reproduction, Health, and Medicine (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 219-240.



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