Culture 10 June 2019
As abortion bans and restrictions sweep across the nation, the word abortion has taken on a life of its own, inspiring vitriol wherever it is mentioned, but that isn't stopping women from taking a stand and reminding everyone who these bans will be affecting down on the ground.
Even these celebrities are stepping up and taking on this political movement. Though you may not always associate celebrity with political activism, these women are using their public platforms to make a difference.
Alyssa Milano, a staunch feminist and prominent activist, was one of the first to speak out. However, she wasn't necessarily the most successful. Earlier this month, in response to Georgia's anti-abortion legislation passing, Alyssa Milano called upon the women of Twitter to unite under a shared banner: a sex strike, stating "if our choices are denied, so are yours." It did not take long for the Twitter community to completely shut this idea down; it is heteronormative, trans-exclusionary and more than anything else it completely commodifies women's sex in exchange for something that should be an absolute right (bodily autonomy). Denying men sex is not going to get them to listen, and it certainly won't get them to support abortion.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other women who are also championing the pro-choice cause but with a bit more tact than Milano. Many of them are doing so simply by sharing their own experiences and saying "Hey, abortion is here to stay, because we are going to fight for it." A sex strike may not solve the abortion problem, but maybe these women's stories will.
Busy Philipps, of "Dawson's Creek" and "Cougar Town," opened her late-night show, "Busy Tonight" with an emotional discussion of abortion, but she could not have known the fledgling movement that it would ignite. She begins by bringing up the risks that these abortion bans pose for women in general, but things quickly turn personal. "Maybe you're sitting there thinking, ' I don't know a woman who would have an abortion.' Well, you know me." And that simple three-word-phrase lit up: #YouKnowMe.
Since then, women have come forward in droves to share their stories and show the world just how common abortion is. Philips did not disclose many details of her own procedure, other than it occurring at the age of 15, but the simple fact that she, in a very visible setting, is sharing that she has had an abortion makes a huge difference. And as more women continue share their stories the conversation surrounding abortion is becoming suffused with new life. A necessary step on the way towards assuring the right of bodily autonomy for all people. As with any debate as deeply divided as this, certain terms, phrases or ideas can become more than themselves. As though the word itself represents all that is evil in this world to some people. But the women who actually need access to it get forgotten, turned into statistics or sob stories. The people giving voice to these issues are working to reverse this process and remind the world that abortion is more than what anti-choice advocates make it out to be. Abortion could be a woman who is able to attend college because she didn't have to pay for a child. It could be your second cousin who terminated a pregnancy due to fetal non-viability. It could be you.
Jameela Jamil, actress and body-positive advocate, came forward with her own abortion experience and chose to focus on her lack of regret and the reasoning behind her choice. Some people still see abortion as a monster that will leave a woman full of remorse, but each and every woman has a unique response to the experience. She tweeted that her choice to have the procedure was "the best decision I have ever made. Both for me, and for the baby I don't want, and wasn't ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially." Jamil's unabashed acknowledgment of her freedom to have an abortion is a refreshing positive affirmation in an often bitter discussion.
Ashley Judd also shared her story on Instagram and Twitter succinctly stating "Raped at 30, I terminated the pregnancy. #youknowme." These posts came almost immediately after the Alabama ban was passed, and she specifically mentioned that "the rapist would have had paternity rights," as would be the case under the regulations of the Alabama ban. Though no other official reference is mentioned, at any rate, the message is clear: Judd is not ashamed of her procedure and she wants the world to know about it.
One of the most poignant stories shared was from earlier this month by actress and model, Milla Jovovich. She took to Instagram to post the story of her emergency abortion and protest these new incredibly restrictive bans. She described the event as "horrific," after going into preterm labor she was informed she would have to remain awake for the entire procedure. This experience was horrific enough for Jovovich, but she also pointed out that under the new bans "women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions." The piercing truth of this statement paints a haunting image of the future, but the women who are standing out may be changing that future.
Though these women have different perspectives on their abortions, they are united by the belief that our society needs to be talking about these stories. People need to know that there are living, breathing people that will, or would have been, affected by such strict abortion bans. This movement is about community, shared trauma and giving women an opportunity to make themselves known and bring attention to the pervasiveness of their struggle. #YouKnowMe is giving space for women to show the world just how common this simple medical procedure truly is. Celebrities, neighbors, friends and every woman in between are using this hashtag to empower themselves and shut down the abortion stigma.
Here at SWAAY we are all about women owning the conversation and that is exactly what #YouKnowMe means. If you have a personal story about abortion, we want to encourage you to use this safe space to share it. This is a community of empowerment, and you will always be supported.
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