The day after the House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood, Seattle-based writer Amelia Bonow logged onto Facebook and began a post.
“Hey guys!” she began. “Like a year ago I had an abortion at the Planned Parenthood on Madison Ave...."
Writer and activist Lindy West shared Amelia’s story on Twitter along with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, and, with the help of another "co-conspirator" Kimberly Morrison, a viral movement was born. Women are now openly sharing their abortion stories on social media, defying House Republicans and MRA trolls as they demand to keep Planned Parenthood funded.
As Lindy West wrote on Twitter, “The campaign to defund PP ‘relies on the assumption that abortion is to be whispered about.’” And these women refuse to stay silent.
In an email interview, we talked to Amelia about how #ShoutYourAbortion got started, how she responds to trolls and how the movement will expand beyond a viral hashtag.
Lindy West (L) and Amelia Bonow (R).
How did the idea for #ShoutYourAbortion come about?
After reading that the House had defunded Planned Parenthood, I was devastated. I had already been in the process of compiling a zine with Seattle musician Kimberly Morrison, which was essentially set to be a print version of what the #ShoutYourAbortion movement is becoming. I have a relatively active presence on Facebook, and on a whim I wrote a status update about having had an incredibly positive experience with my abortion at Planned Parenthood in conjunction with announcing the upcoming zine. I just had a moment of realizing that I wanted to step out to my community as someone who has had an abortion and has no problem talking about it.
Immediately after I posted my status, Lindy retweeted it and we came up with #ShoutYourAbortion. Now, 48 hours later, the world is listening and women everywhere are reclaiming this digital and cultural space by talking about their abortions on their own terms.
Had you been open about your own abortion before #ShoutYourAbortion? Did you have any hesitations about sharing it publicly online?
I’ve been totally open with people in my life about my abortion, although I had never posted about it publicly. Announcing on social media that I feel zero shame or regret about my abortion and, on the contrary, feel an unequaled and inexpressible level of gratitude was something I did on a whim. I just realized that my defaulting into silence about my own incredibly positive experience with abortion was in some way a product of internalized stigma, and was perpetuating that stigma as well, or at least acquiescing to it.
As evidenced by the way #ShoutYourAbortion is taking off, sharing this information publicly and unapologetically has the power to reclaim the conversation around abortion. Women need to be at the center of this conversation; our voices should be the loudest and they have been drowned out for far too long.
Also, I’m aware that my ability to speak freely about my abortion is a product of privilege; many women must remain silent in order to protect themselves because their abortion is tied to abuse, sexual violence, incest, or rape. Some women may be choosing to keep their stories private to avoid opening themselves up to a new field of judgement, criticism, shame, aggression, and potentially broken relationships. It is hard enough to live in this world as a woman without giving misogynists a specific reason to hate you.
I would never implore any woman in the world to speak out like I am, but for me, it comes down to this: I feel as though there is absolutely nothing immoral about abortion, and I feel zero shame about my choice. I’m an open person, so why not talk about it? I had no hesitations about posting it; I just sorta did that instead of mopping my kitchen.
The response has been inexpressibly positive and uplifting, and I feel like #ShoutYourAbortion is creating a space for women to speak about abortion on their own terms. The blazing response is proof that women have needed this space for a long time.
What are some of the most powerful responses you've seen to #ShoutYourAbortion?
There have been stories from women who aborted the potential offspring of their abusive partners, women who had abortions after being raped, and women who simply said that they would not be alive today if it weren’t for their access to safe abortion. Many women have talked about having multiple abortions, and feeling no shame or remorse, which I think is especially important—if you do not believe abortion is wrong, than it should be available to any woman, at any time in her life, for any reason.
I haven’t had time to read them all, because this is happening too fast to take it all in. I’d say the one which stuck with me most was this one, written by prominent Seattle businesswoman Miki Sodos: “September 25, 2003, I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant. My mother had died in my arms 6 days previously after a year of battling cancer. I was doing speed on a regular basis and about 2 inches from my face being in the gutter. My abortion was the first event I was able to control in a long time, and the catalyst to get my shit together. 12 years later I don't regret it one bit. I went by myself, never shed a tear, and never looked back. #shoutyourabortion”
Miki runs a popular restaurant on Capitol Hill and is very much an active voice in the community. Everybody knows and respects her. For her to put this story out into the world and make herself visible in this way, to everyone she knows, seemed completely groundbreaking, even though it’s not like I don’t know where Miki stands on abortion. When I read this post and I realized that #ShoutYourAbortion had created that space for Miki, I knew we were onto something.
Lindy West tweeted that anti-choicers are trying to take over the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. How are you, and other participants, responding to the harassment?
Lindy is one of my best friends. She consciously chooses to lean into a maelstrom of harassment and emotional terrorism every single day in order to fight the good fight. Her trolls are so hateful and mostly so stupid that she pretty much just publicly engages with them and in doing so allows them to illustrate all of her points. So, this is nothing new to Lindy. The same people who hate fat women hate all women, and hate the idea of women being able to create the lives we want for ourselves by maintaining control over our own reproductive systems.
I’m very new to Twitter and frankly I’m baffled by the fact that so many idiots use it so proficiently because it still feels very confusing. But we just got retweeted by Cecile Richards (President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America) so I’ve got an incentive to learn quick! Follow me @ameliabonow because I’m planning to get really good at 140 character burns by the end of today so I can take some heat off Lindy.
Tell us about your plans for shoutyourabortion.com.
This project is the brainchild of #ShoutYourAbortion co-conspirator and writer Lesley Hazleton and myself. Shoutyourabortion.com will ultimately become a video sharing site a la the It Get’s Better campaign (another great Seattle project!). We are going to begin filming women speaking openly about their abortions at an event in October and will be uploading them to the site as soon as we can get it up and running. Hopefully we can make the site a place where women can share their stories publicly in video or text, and continue to open up the space for women to speak about their abortions on their own terms.
Over the last 48 hours, I’ve seen a huge transformation in the way women are talking about abortion. 48 hours! We are not going let anything stop us from continuing to take this conversation back; we are just getting started and we plan to make culture a better place for women in a permanent way.
Photo credits: Kimberly Morrison's armpit, tattoo and photo by Shannon Perry (top); Lindy West and Amelia Bonow, courtesy Amelia Bonow; Facebook/Amelia Bonow
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