The topic of abortion is often shrouded in secrecy, but a new survey has revealed just how many women feel compelled to keep quiet if they’re considering undergoing the procedure.
Despite nine in 10 (92%) women identifying as pro-choice, experts say there is still a stigma in discussing a termination.
The survey of 2,684 women aged over 18 for Marie Stopes International, which provides abortions, found most women would hide an abortion from their family.
While just over a third (34%) would speak to their friend, not all would tell their partner - with just 62% saying they would.
In stats that reveal a culture of silence some 6% of women would not talk to anyone apart from a medical professional about their decision.
But many women would like to see the silence surrounding the topic lifted with 79% saying abortion should be talked about more openly.
In a bid to encourage more discussion, the charity has launched a new campaign - #SmashAbortionStigma.
The campaign aims to help women feel more “informed, educated and supported” about their choices and is backed by Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen, novelist Marian Keyes and Derry Girls actress Siobhan McSweeney.
Commenting on the survey findings and the campaign Dr Caroline Gazet, clinical director for Marie Stopes UK, said: “In the UK, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime, yet we know that abortion stigma can make women feel judged, shamed and silenced.
“Women want to talk, and our research shows that open and honest conversations about abortion help women and girls feel informed, educated and supported when it comes to making their own choices about their own bodies.
“The UK is a pro-choice nation, but with a small minority of anti-choice voices threatening abortion rights worldwide, it is more important than ever that we smash abortion stigma and champion the right of women to access abortion care.”
The survey findings follow last month’s ruling to make abortion legal for the first time in Northern Ireland.
The Abortion Act 1967, which regulates terminations in England, Scotland and Wales, has never applied in Northern Ireland, meaning abortion law there has been more restrictive than in the rest of the UK.
Until now, abortion was only allowed if a woman's life was at risk or there was a danger of permanent and serious damage to her physical or mental health.
The UK Government will take responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to abortions by next April.
Earlier this year, data published by the Department of Health and Social Care revealed the number of abortions carried out in England and Wales had reached a record high of more than 200,000 in a year.
The figures showed that there were 200,608 abortions among women resident in England and Wales in 2018 – up 4% on the 192,900 the previous year.
A further study in June suggested that women who are denied access to an abortion are more likely to develop long-term health problems.
The study, conducted by the University of California, found that women whose requests were denied reported higher rates of chronic pain in the five years after seeking an abortion than those who were granted terminations in their first or second trimester.