Last week, by a 247-187 vote, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization said to be the largest reproductive health provider in the US and one that serves over two million people annually. Although the bill will likely die in the Senate, and will certainly be vetoed by President Obama, the idea that such a bill was drafted and passed by the House period should frighten us all—especially women of color at all concerned about our sisters who struggle financially and receive much of their reproductive health care through Planned Parenthood.
We are more than versed on the right wing, conservative war on women’s bodies, and that Republicans are clueless about abortions (and seemingly reproductive health altogether). Although the bill is supposed to halt government aid until an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s supposed profits from the illegal sale of fetal tissues obtained through performed abortions is completed, it seems pretty clear the organization has done nothing illegal to begin with.
More so, Planned Parenthood lists abortions as only 3% of the various other services it provides—including sex education, birth control and family planning, prenatal care, breast exams, pap smears (cervical cancer screenings), and even vasectomies. Let’s be clear: when we say we want to defund Planned Parenthood because of the relatively miniscule amount of abortions it performs, we are also saying we don’t care that poor women won’t have access to reproductive health services, as we know that “nearly 80% [of Planned Parenthood patients] had incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.”
But I don’t want to gloss over the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortions, and by doing so allows women to make clear decisions on whether they want to become mothers or not. Safe, affordable access to abortions matters for women’s health. Abortions are a medical and human right, and few things prove this idea more than the hashtag #shoutyourabortion, aimed at creating conversations on why access to these services are important while also removing the stigma and shame attached to them.
Writer and activist Amelia Bonow, along with fellow writer Lindy West, began #shoutyourabortion by sharing Bonow’s abortion story via social media. On Facebook, Bonow wrote of her own abortion experience, and why she chose to share it:
I am telling you this today because the narrative of those working to defund Planned Parenthood relies on the assumption that abortion is still something to be whispered about. Plenty of people still believe that on some level—if you are a good woman—abortion is a choice which should be accompanied by some level of sadness, shame or regret.
Amelia Bonow’s statement is powerful and accurate. When women are quiet about their experiences with abortion, or attempt to qualify those experiences by presenting abortions as an always undesirable option, they unknowingly further the argument that women don’t really want (and therefore don’t need access to) these (sometimes lifesaving, on multiple levels) procedures. Lindsey West agrees:
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.
While we reflect on what’s happening in the House to take ownership of women’s bodies away from them, we should also recall that the wise words of our womanist, literary mother Zora Neale Hurston provided a reminder to speak our piece: “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
Here are more #shoutyourabortion tweets that simultaneously uphold women’s rights to choose and combat the shame that often accompanies stories of abortion:
— Rosa A. Clemente (@rosaclemente) September 21, 2015
Women will not be shamed into silence. Not anymore. Your hate won't change that. And that's what scares you, isn't it? #ShoutYourAbortion
— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) September 22, 2015
4.1 million mothers and children living in poverty but yes, let's force pregnancy while shaming welfare recipients #ShoutYourAbortion
— meg (@mylilnutmeg) September 22, 2015
The truth is: if cisgender men could get pregnant, abortion wouldn't even be an issue or hot topic. This is misogyny. #ShoutYourAbortion
— PrestonMitchum (@PrestonMitchum) September 22, 2015
What people don't realize is making abortion illegal won't stop abortions. It will just stop safe abortions. #ShoutYourAbortion
— Weston. (@WesVanDorn) September 22, 2015
18 & broke + pregnant = bad. Abortion + 3yrs later + married + stable job = a great life for my baby. #ShoutYourAbortion
— Sophia (@SophiaSkySays) September 21, 2015