It’s been over 40 years since Roe v Wade. Despite the outrage over the existence of Planned Parenthood and despite the decades that America has had to adjust to the fact that abortion is legal and not sending anyone to Hell anytime soon, it is still talked about in hushed, shameful tones. Women don’t “choose” abortions; they are backed into abortions by grizzly life circumstances, and they are haunted by the ghosts of the children they didn’t have. You can get an abortion, but you have to, as Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, writes, “feel really, really bad about it.” The women behind #ShoutYourAbortion have been doing a great job of encouraging women to be honest, unashamed, and unregretful about their abortions. But we still do not talk enough about those women who get them simply because they didn’t or don’t want a child. We don’t give enough airtime to the possibility that women don’t regret their abortions. We don’t talk enough about what Pollitt calls “good abortions.”
This isn’t to pass any judgement on or demean those who do regret their abortions, or who get them for the tragic reasons we exclusively hear about. Those reasons aren’t unimportant. They are also the only reasons we talk about. So here, to remind everyone that abortion is not only safe and legal but also a medical procedure that does not require any justification or regret, is a list of ten women who have been open about the positives of their abortions:
1. Amy Brenneman
In a recent interview with HuffPost Live, The Leftovers star spoke candidly about the abortion she had in her early twenties. She said she was “so grateful” and that it was “not a bad experience.” She also expressed her distress that things are getting worse, not better, than when she was younger.
2. Chelsea Handler
Always brusque and hilariously to-the-point, Chelsea Handler has always been honest about her abortion. In a 2011 interview with The New York Times and amidst conversation about reality TV and political correctness, Handler causally dropped mention of her abortion as a teenager: “I had an abortion when I was 16. Because that’s what I should have done. Otherwise I would now have a 20-year-old kid. Anyway, those are things that people shouldn’t be dishonest about.”
In 2012, she went on the The Rosie Show and talked more in depth with Rosie O’Donnell about her abortion. She called her 16-year-old self “delusional” for considering keeping it and that her parents convinced her an abortion was by far the best idea for her to live a full life. Handler concluded with “I have no regrets at all.” None.
3. Gloria Steinem
In a 2011 interview with The Observer, Steinem spoke candidly about the guilt she tried and failed to make herself feel: “[Abortion] is supposed to make us a bad person. But I must say, I never felt that. I used to sit and try and figure out how old the child would be, trying to make myself feel guilty. But I never could!” She said it felt positive because she was controlling her life and her decisions. She also said she didn’t tell anyone for the longest time, because she “knew that out there it wasn’t [positive].” The stigma surrounding abortion and the social requirement to feel enormous guilt and regret prevented her from being open about her decision and her complete confidence it was a good thing for her.
4. Jemima Kirke
In a video for Draw the Line, BUST cover girl Jemima Kirke spoke about the abortion she chose when she was in college. She did not want to be tied to her college boyfriend for the rest of her life, and she felt her life was “not conducive to raising a healthy, happy child.” Kirke blamed the “obstacles and stigma” surrounding abortion for the isolation that she and other women feel about choosing abortions. That isolation has real consequences; she had to empty her bank account and refuse the added cost of anesthesia in order to pay for it, partly because she could not tell her mother and turn to her for help.
5. Nicki Minaj
In her December 2014 Rolling Stone profile, Minaj spoke about the abortion she had while attending the LaGuardia performing-arts high school. Of her pregnancy she said, “I thought I was going to die. I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through.” Though she said her decision to get an abortion has “haunted [her] all [her] life,” she also confirmed that it was the correct choice for her: “It’d be contradictory if I said I wasn’t pro-choice. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have anything to offer a child.”
6. Penny Marshall
The Laverne & Shirley star had her first child when she was 19 and in college. Her second pregnancy occurred in the 1980s, after the end of Laverne and Shirley. She chose to have an abortion because she was single and already had a child. She said she “didn’t wish [she] hadn’t (had the abortion).”
7. Sinead O’Connor
O’Connor did not come to her decision lightly; she was “happily pregnant” and “crazy about the father of the baby,” according Philly.com. But their relationship didn’t work out, and she chose to abort it because she was not ready for a child as a single parent and that it would be “better for everybody” if she had an abortion: “I didn’t have a sense of guilt about the abortion. If I had had the child, I wouldn’t have been in any state to be the mother that child would have deserved. It wouldn’t have worked that way.” This is a similar line of logic that informed Jemima Kirke’s decision, and it is logic that pro-lifers so often cannot comprehend: getting an abortion out of concern for the potential child. But it’s an important response to those who think abortion is selfish.
8. Vanessa Williams
The former Miss America and current multi-award winning actress and singer had an abortion when she was a senior in high school. In an interview with ABC News, she was asked if it was hard, as a “nice Catholic girl,” to have an abortion. Williams thought the pregnancy, not the abortion, was the hard part: “It’s frightening. Being pregnant is the most frightening thing that happens in your life, and I knew in high school that that was something I was not prepared to do or fight or struggle with.”
9. Kathleen Hanna
The riot grrrl icon has been nothing but bluntly enthusiastic about her abortion at age 15. In an interview with The Rumpus, she credited her life’s successes to her abortion:
“I’m not one of those people who’d have looked back and been like, Oh, that kid would be 30 right now… I don’t think, Oh, I really regret it… Maybe that’s a fucked-up thing to say but, I don’t regret it at all, number one, and number two, it was one of the best things that happened to me.”
She also credits her abortion to helping other women and girls:
“I don’t think I would’ve been in any of these bands if I’d been a teenage mom. I probably wouldn’t have finished high school. I definitely wouldn’t have gone to college. I’d probably be managing a McDonald’s or something. That gives me chills because when girls come up to me and they’re like ‘I got into women’s studies because of you,’ I do think, God, if I hadn’t have had that abortion, would this girl have gotten into women’s studies.”
10. Cecile Richards
Currently my favorite human and a Glamour Woman of the Year, Cecile Richards wrote an essay in Elle last year about how the stigma surrounding abortion has silenced women from speaking about their experiences, both bad and good:
“Women fear that when they disclose that they’ve had an abortion, they’ll be judged – seen as irresponsible or selfish. Whatever a woman’s reason for having an abortion, for some people it will never be good enough. If she had an abortion because she was too young, people may point to the 16-year-old who decided to raise a child. If she had an abortion because she couldn’t afford to care for a child, people will ask what else she spends money on and why her family couldn’t help. If she has an abortion because she already has children, people will ask why she couldn’t have just one more.”
She goes on to respond in the only vein that should be expected after those incredibly common and offensive questions and statements:
"All of these questions have good answers. But the point is that women shouldn’t have to answer them at all. No woman should be forced to justify her decision for having an abortion."
Richards brings up her own abortion:
"I had an abortion. It was the right decision for me and my husband, and it wasn’t a difficult decision. Before becoming president of Planned Parenthood eight years ago, I hadn’t really talked about it beyond family and close friends. But I’m here to say, when politicians argue and shout about abortion, they’re talking about me – and millions of other women around the country."
“It wasn’t a difficult decision.” This encapsulates what women are forbidden from admitting, what society, both the right and the left, refuses to allow into the dialogue about this incredibly common medical procedure. It doesn’t have to be difficult, it doesn’t have to be scarring, and no woman owes anyone any justification for her abortion.
This post was published November 18, 2015
Images via Facebook
More from BUST