Shout Your Abortion hit the book shelves in time for us to celebrate the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 2019. That Supreme Court decision (finally) recognized that abortion is a normal part of a woman’s reproductive life and a right guaranteed by the Constitution. The book, edited by Amelia Bonow and Emily Nokes, presents the real-life abortion “shouts” of 44 women and how they think about what is typically a routine medical procedure.
In 1973, when Roe was decided, eight years had already passed since my (illegal) abortion, and I was raising two daughters. I was relieved to know that women, including my two kiddos, would never again need to risk their lives to get reproductive health care they might need.
I didn’t think we would ever go back to unsafe abortions or forced motherhood. It never occurred to me (and many other women) that staying quiet and just getting on with life would leave an open mic for anti-abortion zealots to chip away at our protection. Alas, we were wrong.
Fast forward 46 years. “Stop! We’re not having it! Listen to us! We’ve had abortions!” Minority anti-abortion voices are no longer drowning out the majority of the American people (72 percent) who do not want to see Roe overturned and are taking action to prevent it, including our book’s “shouters.”
The genesis of the book was Amelia Bonow’s Facebook post about her abortion, passed along by Lindy West as #ShoutYourAbortion, prompting a deluge of “shouters.” Common themes among those chosen for inclusion in the book include:
The early-pregnancy procedure is no big deal.
Amelia Bonow: “I kissed my boyfriend, rose to my feet, and walked toward the end of a problem … The whole thing was over in three minutes. I have had many more painful experiences at the dentist.”
Killing stigma requires speaking out, normalizing the word: ABORTION, ABORTION, ABORTION …
Shawna Murphy: “When Planned Parenthood and abortion in general came under attack in 2015, I realized I couldn’t be silent any longer.”
Lindy West: “I believe unconditionally in the right of people with uteruses to decide what grows inside their bodies and feeds on their blood and reroutes their futures. There are no ‘good’ abortions and ‘bad’ abortions; there are only pregnant people who want them and pregnant people who don’t …”
Erin: “I hope our society progresses to the point where talking about abortion is normal and accepted, and we can choose whether to be private about it. I don’t think we can afford the luxury of privacy quite yet. We need to get rid of secrecy and shame first.”
Amy Brenneman: “My abortion is not sequestered in a shame silo the way my mother’s was.”
Amelia Bonow: “Shame is a thing other people put on you; it isn’t even yours … We’ve all been brainwashed to believe that the absence of negative emotions around having an abortion is the mark of an emotionally bankrupt person … It’s perfectly reasonable to feel happy that you were not forced to become a mother.”
Dana Davenport: “I have never felt ashamed, but rather I was shamed.”
Joy: “My only fleeting regret was that I was briefly made to feel like I should regret choosing the course of my own life.”
No woman needs to justify her abortion to anyone else.
Clementine Ford: “Abortion isn’t something we have to prove we deserve by having the ‘right’ kind of unwanted pregnancy.”
Erin: “I thought about including details about my abortions in this story … But, ultimately I don’t think any of these things are relevant. They feel like justifications, and I don’t believe justifications are necessary.”
Joyelle Nicole Johnson: “I got pregnant the classy way: on the floor of a handicap bathroom on an Amtrak train. And if you’re having sex on the floor of a handicap bathroom on an Amtrak train … then maybe you aren’t ready to be a mother.”
Women have multiple abortions.
Clementine Ford: “Listen, we aren’t born with a single token that’s good for one abortion each until we’ve used it up and then, too bad, you have to become a parent now!”
A pregnant woman’s welfare takes priority.
Danielle Campoamor: “… the profound love I had for myself when I was 23 and decided that I mattered more than an unplanned pregnancy, more than a zygote, and more than my country’s patriarchal expectations.”
Emily Elizabeth: “People get abortions for all sorts of reasons, but one thing unites us: a desire to regulate our own bodies, to shape our own futures.”
Megan Rice (comedian): “It took me a long time to be comfortable enough to talk about this because I knew a lot of people would look at it as though I took a beautiful child out of the world, but I prefer to think of it like I brought an A in AP English into the world.”
Lawmakers and patriarchy:
Alayna Becker: “Lies have protected twisted lawmakers, who have regulated women’s healthcare in a way that subjects people to brutal mistakes, making abortion an institutional bloodsport.”
Danielle Campoamor: “I couldn’t continue self-destructing to appease people who despise the freedom, sexuality, and bodily autonomy of women … if we are to continue to hold up motherhood as a beautiful life choice, then we, as a nation, cannot position parenthood as a punishment.”
In one of the book’s closing interviews, Dr. Willie Parker, a vocal, visible abortion provider, said, “There’s a Jewish wisdom from the Talmud. It says, ‘We’re not obligated to finish the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.'”
So, what do those sage words mean to me? Approaching my 73rd birthday, I have a goal before my inevitable ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust event — to keep shouting for women to have bodily autonomy and to push back on patriarchal tendencies, even among those men I love and respect (sometimes they are so darned clueless).
And what should those words mean for you? Look around and listen. When you read or hear anyone shaming a woman for having an abortion, challenge the writer or speaker. Monitor your elected representatives. If they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. When you see them err, let them know you noticed and that you will exact a price in the voting booth. And, don’t do this quietly …