Women are breaking down abortion stigma one tweet at a time

Mashable
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Amelia Bonow had an abortion last year, and she is not ashamed to share her experience with the world.

That’s ultimately what Bonow, 30, did Saturday when she wrote a Facebook post about her abortion at a Seattle Planned Parenthood clinic. Following the House’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Bonow felt outraged by what she calls the latest attack in a “war on women’s physical autonomy.”

She used the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion to invite other women to share their own stories despite overwhelming pressure and a stigma to stay silent.

“Plenty of people still believe that on some level — if you are a good woman — abortion is a choice which should accompanied by some level of sadness, shame, or regret,” she wrote. “But you know what? I have a good heart and having an abortion made me happy in a totally unqualified way. Why wouldn’t I be happy that I was not forced to become a mother?”

The hashtag soon gained momentum. By Sunday it began trending, and the conversation continued Monday with contributions from both women who embraced the campaign’s no-shame mantra and from anti-abortion commenters who raised questions about morality and personal responsibility.

That criticism — some of it in the form of crude commentary about a woman’s sexual choices — does not faze Bonow, who notes that abortion is a common medical procedure: one in three American women have had one.

Bonow is frankly surprised that despite her willingness to discuss her experience with friends, she hadn’t openly advocated for abortion rights using her own experience. She knows that not everyone can comfortably or safely discuss an abortion, so Bonow wants to use that “privilege” to reveal and challenge stigma.

“Silence from women like me indicates that we are colluding to this idea that we are ‘sluts’ and something we did was immoral,” she says. “We have to change the discourse to women controlling their own lives… I think it is time for women who have had abortions to be the ones who are running that conversation.”

Well-timed abortion rights hashtags have helped shape public debate over the controversial issue. Last week, NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights advocacy organization, started a campaign called #MenForChoice. That campaign was also meant to turn whispers of support into high-profile declarations, and it trended nationally.

The hashtag was originally Bonow’s way of announcing a zine she co-created with a friend that includes stories of women’s abortions. Bonow, in partnership with another friend, also plans to launch a video channel in late October that women can use to upload videos of themselves talking about their abortions.

Bonow isn’t sure why her hashtag spread so far and wide, but hopes that it will galvanize a movement.

“It’s about us reclaiming some digital space and cultural space and using our voices,” she says. “It’s ultimately about changing the way culture talks about abortion.”

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