#ShoutYourAbortion

My jaw dropped this morning when I woke up to the latest “join me” social media campaign to wash up on our shores from across the pond.

#ShoutYourAbortion

I immediately found this holler back request deeply troubling.

However.

As we all know, the problem with worldwide trending on Twitter is that backstories are quickly lost and so I forced myself to do a bit of digging through gritted teeth on what was starting to look scarily like a sick incarnation of the “ice bucket challenge.”

The first thing that I discovered was that the founder of the “Shout Your Abortion” movement, Amelia Bonow, has had to go into hiding for her own protection.

That part is sad, but unsurprising.

It turns out that Amelia had an abortion.  She was upset by the prospect of the US sex education and advice organisation Planned Parenthood being frustrated by a withdrawal of government funds and so took to Facebook to protest by announcing her positive experience of a recent abortion with PP in a plainspoken and unapologetic way.

She believes that abortion should not be whispered about and so opted to share (shout) her termination news loudly and proudly with her 1500 friends and family members on Facebook.

But there’s more she wants to say. She disagrees that abortion should be accompanied by sadness. She is not sorry about hers. 

She is one helluva bold voice and, of course, is entitled to her opinion provided she is happy to face any of the somewhat inevitable consequences that go along with it.

Next thing, one of her friends shares the post, comes up with the catchy hashtag “Shout Your Abortion” and BOOM the whole thing goes viral.

Cue a disturbing tweetathon debate: outrage from pro-choicers, pro-lifers and turbo trolls, ironic death threats all from every angle imaginable. Oh, and a small smattering of supporters too.

I am usually a huge supporter of those brave enough to share their stories and always endeavour to do this free from judgement.

I didn’t want to jump to conclusions too quickly here but was surprised at the disgust I felt towards these women at what I believe to be their naive, insensitive and misguided intentions, despite creating a global shit storm (about their own hashtag).

I can completely understand wanting to support Planned Parenthood and other organisations like them.

I agree that we should unite to fight the negative stigmas around abortion.

But I cannot abide the smug tone that the hashtag evokes, nor the related assumption that people generally want to (or should feel they ought to) discuss detailed personal stories of abortion openly with the world at large.  Not everyone is a talker. For me, dignified privacy is not necessarily a weakness. It can preserve sensitivity; and should not automatically to be interpreted as feeding shame through silence.

Of course, the cynic in me knows that controversy like this is often the key to raising awareness of an issue.

Current US stats suggest that as many as one in three women have had an abortion.

Awareness can change things for the better.

But to raise awareness of abortion like some sort of “happy” (in Amelia’s words) badge of honour?

She has narked me off.

It feels crass.

It would make me feel ashamed if I were one of the many millions of women to have benefited from Planned Parenthood’s help, only to find myself generically represented by a self-important, insensitive big mouth like Amelia (and friends).

Abortion is not a club, nor an affliction. It cannot be generalised. It’s a choice. Amelia makes it all sound so easy.

Further, to incite other women to join a hashtag encouraging the revealing of what is essentially the loss of life is not helpful unless it offers a positive and safe support network within which to open up and deal with backlash and/or emotional turmoil, should they wish to do so.

Even in a mob, Twitter is not this safe harbour.

To give just one example, I’m not sure that every survivor of rape would want a high-five in return for making a brave statement about surviving rape. Abortion may be but one of the many difficult consequences faced resulting from rape. It is not linear. Termination can offer a positive choice when it feels like there is no choice. It’s not always easy, Amelia. Not everyone emerges feeling like a winner.

It is so misguided to think that the complexities of abortion awareness can ever be viewed in the same terms as other “big reveal” taboo type subjects.

But then I’m a pro-choicer who has (fortunately) never had to consider abortion as an option.

I live in Great Britain, where abortion is legal and generally available at zero cost on the national health service, or at a private clinic, up until 24 weeks gestation. 

Arguably therefore, I’m not qualified to voice an opinion.

But from what I understand, terminations can be selfish. Reasons can be tragic. But they are personal decisions. Involve private thoughts. And whatever the outcome, I’m pretty sure is what the woman feels is for the best. FOR HER.

So, Amelia is not sorry. She seems, well, quite proud of herself from the interviews that I have read. Good for HER.

I don’t believe that many woman can honestly relate to Amelia and feel happy after having an abortion, relieved – yes. I can completely understand that.

Being pro-choice means that I also respect life and the bravery of bringing life into the world against all the odds.

More so now that I’m a mum. I find late stage abortion extremely unpalatable, particularly since experiencing miscarriage at 8 weeks and seeing what that already means in terms of development.  Sharing my story is something I would and have done in circumstances where I feel it is appropriate and helpful to others in a similar place.

Not to empower; but to empathise.

But at the same time, I understand the terror, anxiety and cost of having a child, even into the best of circumstances.

It’s bloody tough.

Which is why I still believe a women’s decisions are for her to own alone.

In an ideal world these would be supported and respected for the right reasons, whatever these may be.

Sadly this world is not ideal, hence my comment on the subject of Amelia’s naivety above.

As I let my anger subside, I’m realising that my biggest issue is not related to shouting about abortion experiences from the rooftops if that’s what someone wants to do. To continue a theme – that is her choice.

It is the wording of the hashtag itself, which does nothing to de-stigmatise, add intelligent debate or enlighten, particularly now that the issue has snowballed away from defending Planned Parenthood into something far more gimmicky and PR driven.

It lightens the tone. Celebrities get in on the act. There’s money to be made.

Abortion is not something to gloat about as being some sort of bankable chip from a compendium of female rights like this.

I just hope that something positive comes out of #ShoutYourAbortion in support of maintaining our right to choose, particularly in the US if government funding is at risk.

Let’s move forward sensitively Amelia. You seem to have upset everyone. If your aim is to represent our right as women to choose, don’t make this about you. Use your platform responsibly. Change your hashtag.

I’m not sorry either.

#letstalkaboutchoices #havecourage #staystrongladies

[Image: courtesy of http://www.bricplusnews.com ]

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13 thoughts on “#ShoutYourAbortion

    • So true. A tough week for you guys between this and the Oregon Shooting, huh. All could be solvable to an extent through progressive thinking. I wish it could change. But we live in a rotten world where power paradigms never do. What a depressing thought! Thanks for your thoughts.

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  1. In social media so much depends on your timeline. The hashtagged stories I’ve seen haven’t been crass, just open. The pendulum swings strangely when our interactions are semi-anonymous. I saw the #shoutyourabortion as a far swing from the shame women are made to feel walking past gauntlets of photos and epithets prior to entering clinics.

    Still, I appreciate what you’re saying. And my personal slant is to be private about most things. Glad you shared this on the Moonshine!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s true, although this one got me so much that I was careful to go right back and look at where it all started and what the two “founders'” actually said & continue to say themselves on the matter.
      On balance, I still feel that their tack has been naive & misguided and that they have probably done more harm than good to the cause (saving PP and others like it) by also alienating many pro-choicers who have waded in with the rest to criticise their approach, thus creating more fuel for the budget cutters. I’m sure their intentions were good, but…
      Of course as a citizen of the world, I can only view and comment by comparing the U.S. Policy to where we are at in the U.K with such things. It always strikes me how “black and white” US politics is on certain topics. This one has many shades of grey and my preference would be for an outcome based on progressive and sensitive non-linear thinking. A human approach if you will. But that’s just me! Thanks so much for reading & sharing your thoughts.

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  2. It’s really quite simple: Everyone should be free to make tough decisions that affect their lives. But it’s not the best way to start dialogue when it’s presented in such a confrontational way and when it comes to arguably a really private thing for most. So, yeah, in this case, I hear what you’re saying.

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  3. Frankly, I’m completely disgusted that she did it and decided to be loud and proud. Killing babies, and they have proved that those babies do feel what had been done to them, in my opinion only, should be something private. Her need to feel validated backfired big-time, but of course it would. It should be a well thought out decision, and only a last resort. I’ve seen people have 2nd trimester abortions like they were just eating a candy bar. I still believe that it should only be a woman’s choice, but there is a level of complete ignorance out there that l just can’t stand. Thank you for your very well written piece on this issue. I could never have smashed it any other way!

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  4. Pingback: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 | Glasgowdragonfly's Blog

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