#ShoutYourAbortion Rejects Stigma
In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the healthcare they need. In a perfect world, no one would be ashamed of seeking needed medical care. In a perfect world, reproductive health would be universally considered to be healthcare full stop.
We don’t live in a perfect world. That’s why #ShoutYourAbortion is so powerful.
The hashtag was started this week by Lindy West, Amelia Bonow, and Kimberly Morrison. The idea is to give people who have had abortions a chance to take back the conversation about the procedure. Millions of people have had an abortion since the 1970s, and yet we rarely hear from those people. There is a reason for that. As West explained in her column in The Guardian on the need for the hashtag:
The fact that even progressive, outspoken, pro-choice feminists feel the pressure to keep our abortions under wraps – to speak about them only in corners, in murmurs, in private with our closest confidantes – means that opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best. They can cast those of us who have had abortions as callous monstrosities, and seed fear in anyone who might need one by insisting that the procedure is always traumatic, always painful, always an impossible decision. Well, we’re not, and it’s not. The truth is that life is unfathomably complex, people with uteruses own their bodies unconditionally, and every abortion story is as unique as the person who lives it. Some are traumatic, some are even regretted, but plenty are like mine.
It seems so obvious once someone says it out loud. Of course being shamed into silence can only help the anti-choice cause. Silence is what allows something to be demonized and seen as monolithic. We’ve seen it a million times before, perhaps most famously in the LGBT movement. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the public started to be more accepting of gay rights as more gay men and lesbians found the tremendous courage to come out of the closet.
Abortion is unlike any other medical procedure, not because it’s somehow inherently different (it’s not) but because of the stigma attached to it. Like so many things having to do with women’s bodies, it is to be kept quiet. Even in defending organizations like Planned Parenthood, it’s like second nature to start by emphasizing all of the non-abortion services they provide. Cancer screenings and STD testing are good services to provide, but so is abortion. Abortion is a social good, not just for people who are pregnant and don’t want to be, but for society at large. It turns out that being able to plan when you get pregnant and how often can have a real impact on how much education you can receive and how economically productive you can be, as well as benefiting your mental health and the health and well-being of future children. Abortion is part of the gamut of reproductive health care and there is no shame in it.
This is why #ShoutYourAbortion is so important. In a society where it is not unheard of to have congressional hearings on contraception without the participation of one woman, it’s vitally important that women and others who need reproductive health services take back the megaphone and tell our stories.
Photo Credit: Debra Sweet