The stigmatisation of abortion: a qualitative analysis of print media in Great Britain in 2010

Carrie Purcell, Shona Hilton, Lisa McDaid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The media play a significant part in shaping public perceptions of health issues, and abortion attracts continued media interest. Detailed examination of media constructions of abortion may help to identify emerging public discourse. Qualitative content analysis was used to examine if and how the print media in contributes to the stigmatisation of abortion. Articles from seven British and five Scottish national newspapers from 2010 were analysed for overall framings of abortion and emergent themes, including potentially stigmatising discursive constructs and language. Abortion was found to be presented using predominantly negative language and discursive associations as 'risky', and in association with other 'discredited' social practices. Key perspectives were found to be absent or marginalised, including those of women who have sought abortion. Few articles framed abortion as a positive and legitimate choice. Negative media representations of abortion contribute to the stigmatisation of the procedure and of women who have it, and reflect a discrediting of women's reproductive decision-making. There is a need to challenge the notion that abortion stigma is inevitable, and to encourage positive framings of abortion in the media and other public discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-55
Number of pages15
JournalCulture, Health & Sexuality
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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