Update |

Resources for Journalists Reporting on Abortion

This resource has been updated! Please visit our new resource.

Abortion is a nuanced subject that brings together many aspects of our lives: health care, evidence-based medicine, economics, insurance coverage, zip code, families, faith, immigration status, race, and gender. If you’re writing an article about abortion, you can use this list as a starting place to keep reporting accurate and compassionate. If you want to speak to an expert, please reach out to us at voice@prh.org.

All forms of abortion care are safe and effective.

A new non-partisan, rigorous scientific report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) affirms that abortion is safe and effective in all forms. In fact, they noted that the biggest threat to quality abortion care is the litany of medically unnecessary regulations that raise costs and delay procedures, ultimately putting health at risk.

Abortion is a part of the full spectrum of reproductive health care.

Just like contraceptive care and prenatal care, abortion is a part of the normal spectrum of reproductive health care. Reporting should not frame having an abortion as an act of desperation or supporting abortion access as an extreme position.

People have abortions for many reasons—there are not good or bad reasons.

The Turnaway Study found that people seek abortion care for finances, timing, issues with a partner, and the need to focus on their other children. All abortion stories are valid, no matter if it was a challenging decision or an easy decision. Using the term “elective abortions” or “therapeutic abortions” stigmatizes abortion care and suggests a distinction between “necessary” and “unnecessary” abortions. Instead simply say, “abortion.”

All abortion bans are extreme.

It’s not helpful to characterize six-week abortion bans as extreme. All bans are extreme to the person who can’t get the health care they need because of a restriction, whether it’s at six-weeks or twenty-weeks.

Don’t use inflammatory, inaccurate language.

Phrases like “Born Alive,” “partial birth abortion,” and “late-term” are not medical terms. Using them only reinforces this misinformation and confuses people. See our tools and resources page for reporting specifically on abortion later in pregnancy.

Six-week abortion bans are not “heartbeat bans.”

At six-weeks gestation, the heart is not fully formed or functioning, and therefore there is no heartbeat. What can be seen heard or seen in ultrasounds is embryonic cardiac activity—electrical currents being sent through cells.

Medication abortion is abortion with pills.

During a medication abortion, a person takes two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol. Medication abortion is preferable to “medical abortion” as it is more descriptive and less confusing.

You cannot reverse an abortion.

This is a false claim that is wholly unsupported by the best, most reliable scientific evidence. Any bill that requires health care providers to inform patients that “reversal” is possible is a violation of the ethical and legal obligations of health care providers. Read Dr. Meera Shah’s primer on medication abortion.

People of faith have abortions, support abortion care, and provide abortion care.

Many people who have abortions reported having a religious affiliation, according to the Guttmacher Institute. It’s inaccurate to pit faith and abortion care against each other.

Don’t use terms like “safe, legal, and rare,” “back alley,” and “coat hangers.”

These terms are outdated messages that only perpetuate stigma about abortion care and the people who have abortions.

Not just women have abortions.

Transgender men and gender diverse people also need to access abortion, and excluding them when talking about abortion erases them from the story and makes it even harder for them to get the health care they need and deserve. We suggest using terms like “pregnant person” or “people who have abortions” whenever possible.

Other health care professionals can provide abortions.

Many states authorize nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, and physician assistants to provide abortion care in addition to physicians. It is safe and appropriate to include abortion care in the scope of practice for these professions. No one is an “abortion doctor” or “abortionist,” every health care provider who offers abortion care is also trained to provide other kinds of health care.

Coverage should center people who have had abortions and people of color.

It’s important to have the perspective of health care professionals in your reporting, but it’s also vitally important to center people who have had abortions and people of color in articles about abortion. The majority of patients who have abortions are people of color. People of color have abortions at higher rates because of a disproportionate lack of access to health care and other complex, intersecting issues. Reporting should reflect these complexities. Contact the We Testify program at the National Network of Abortion Funds if you are looking for an abortion storyteller for your article.