About the study

Published open access in Journal of Health and Social Behavior


The increased politicization of sexual and reproductive health has created barriers to medically necessary care. In absence of formal health care, social ties become critical sources of information and resources, yet the disclosure of stigmatized health needs carries significant risk. How do people navigate the risks and benefits of disclosure when seeking care for stigmatized needs? Drawing on original survey data (N = 153) and in-depth interviews (N = 55) with women who attempted a self-managed abortion, I first describe the distinct roles of weak and strong ties in women’s health-seeking experiences. I then demonstrate how both partial disclosure and nondisclosure are critical tools for obtaining information, resources, and emotional support during periods of health-seeking. Findings advance understanding of disclosure as a continuum that can be strategically wielded by people with stigmatized needs to confront and evade stigma and surveillance from their networks, the state, and the formal health care system

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