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.
I immediately found this holler back request deeply troubling.
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 ]