#ShoutYourAbortion’s bravery born of necessity
September 28, 2015
In reaction to the House of Representatives vote on Sept. 19 to defund Planned Parenthood, the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion has erupted on Twitter with women unapologetically sharing their abortion experiences. The hashtag originated with a post by Seattle-based activist Amelia Bonow who decided to end the silence surrounding her own abortion and share on social media her “inexpressible level of gratitude” for Planned Parenthood and how having an abortion made her “happy in a totally unqualified way.” Bonow and those who have followed her in breaking the silence should be commended for taking a necessary step toward changing the conversation that has shrouded women’s reproductive healthcare in shame for so long.
Despite the Supreme Court’s legalization of abortion in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, social acceptance of the practice has moved forward at a glacial pace. Nearly one in three women exercise this legal right before the age of 45, and yet a culture of fear and silence has been allowed to persist, giving anti-abortion proponents free reign to label these women and affect legislation that effectively denies women access to reproductive healthcare. The resulting rhetoric depicts abortion as a mistake that women will regret being conned into by greedy doctors, when in fact over 95 percent of those who choose to end their pregnancies feel no such remorse.
In openly sharing their multitude of positive experiences, the women behind the #SYA movement are playing a major role in destigmatizing abortion practices, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy. It is often tempting to defend abortion by citing extreme cases; rape, incest, and life-threatening pregnancies are frequently used examples. However, this only serves to imply that women who engaged in consensual sex and simply weren’t ready to become mothers are somehow less deserving of their legal right to choose. The path to acceptance of abortion is one that must encompass the full range of factors women consider in their decisions to end their pregnancies. The movement suffers when silence forces those who are vocally pro-choice to adhere to pro-life rhetoric. In order to achieve progress, supporters must be able to defend all abortions instead of defending some by rejecting others.
Given the current political climate, a woman publicly announcing her abortion is taking a big risk, being forced to fend off the attacks and labels that society places upon her. However, it is a risk she must take if this political climate is ever going to change. And recognizing this risk makes the bravery of the women openly sharing their abortion stories that much more laudable. It is time for women to shed their shame and publicly lay claim to their legal reproductive rights. Abortion is a word to be shouted, not whispered.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 28 print edition. Email Elizabeth Moore at [email protected]