Thousands of women and trans people online are taking part in a hashtag campaign designed to destigmatise abortion.
Twitter trending topic #ShoutYourAbortion, co-created by Lindy West, Amelia Bonow and Kimberly Morrison, originated as a response to the US House of Representatives’ controversial choice to remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a service that provides reproductive health and family planning services. Abortion rights have long been a political battlefield in America, with conservative values often going head to head with pro-choice feminism.
But it’s about much more than policy – #ShoutYourAbortion is about giving women and trans people who’ve experienced abortion a voice.
“We can’t destigmatize abortion if we can’t even talk about it in public,” Lindy explained. “I am not ashamed of my abortion, and I am not sorry, and–most importantly–I am not unusual. Other people facing unwanted and non-viable pregnancies deserve to make fully informed decisions, based on more than the misogynist propaganda peddled by anti-choicers.”
I was 20. Among other things, the dysphoria surrounding a pregnancy as a transperson would have been a lot to cope with. #ShoutYourAbortion
— Jack Qu'emi (@jackquemi) September 21, 2015
before abortion was legal, 5000+ women died every year. anti-choicers have no business calling themselves "pro life". #ShoutYourAbortion
— Laci Green (@gogreen18) September 21, 2015
#ShoutYourAbortion to the ppl saying 'adoption not abortion' – 100,000+ in the U.S. 68,000 in the UK currently waiting to be adopted
— emilie (@anygirlfriday) September 22, 2015
“Even amongst liberal, feminist women like myself, our abortions are still whispered about.” Amelia says. “I know much better than to believe my abortion makes me a slut or a murderer, but the anti-choice movement has been so successful in hijacking the conversation about abortion that many of us who know much better have colluded with our silence.”
And scrolling through some ostensibly pro-choice tweets, this is much is clear – you’re allowed to have an abortion, but you have to feel ashamed of it. You’re allowed to make a choice, but you’re not allowed to talk about it. You’re allowed autonomy of your body, but you definitely have to feel guilty about it. Friends of mine have told me about abortions in hushed tones – not regretting it in the slightest but feeling as if they’re somehow meant to. The only guilt most of them feel is because they’re not regretful.
And that guilt, that shame, is why hashtag campaigns like #ShoutYourAbortion are so important. “Shifting a culture of silence and shame into one of compassion and support is vital”, Catrin Cooper says. “I contributed because I believe every woman should have autonomy over her own body, and because my own experience was incredibly isolating.”
“We’re taking back the narrative,” Lindy told me. “It was ours to begin with anyway”.
Main image: iStock/stevanovicigor