It's okay not to want to talk about your abortion

In the wake of the cruel, draconian changes to abortion law in Georgia and Alabama, women have been sharing the stories of their abortions.

Using the hashtag YouKnowMe, women have been sharing the details of their abortions, an idea started by actress and campaigner Busy Phillips, who wanted to shed light on the fact that 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

‘I was 26, happily married and excited for the pregnancy. We got a non compatible with life diagnosis – the skull didn’t form. We ended the pregnancy at 13 weeks. We made the best choice for us and now have a happy and healthy baby’ writes a woman named Michelle.

‘My boyfriend at the time said I could either have an abortion or he could beat “it” out of me. I cried the entire time. And months after so hard I would vomit. I count the age with every passing year, But it’s probably the only reason I’m alive today. 1 in 4’ wrote Meg.

‘I was 15 and so scared to tell my mom I was pregnant. I went to a judge and he agreed that I was aware of what I was doing and I had a legal and safe abortion at 15 weeks. 25 years later, I have no regrets’ shared Amanda.

The stories being shared on Twitter and Instagram are harrowing, beautiful, honest and raw.The women sharing them are unspeakably brave.

But I still find something about the campaign uncomfortable.

Of course anyone who wants to discuss her experience of abortion has the right to do so. Women’s voices about their experiences of abortion are valuable and valid.

But it’s also okay not to want to talk about your abortion. You don’t owe anyone your story.

You don’t have to spill the details of your abortion to try and fight against the dystopic nightmare taking place in the USA.

Wanting to stay silent about your abortion doesn’t make you a bad feminist. It also doesn’t mean you’re ashamed or you regret it. It just means that for whatever reason, it’s not a story that you feel willing or able to share.

A woman can feel absolutely no regret about her abortion, and still not want to talk about it.

Even if it was the best choice you ever made, it’s still okay to stay silent.

The idea of the YouKnowMe campaign is to demonstrate that all ‘types’ of women have abortions – which is completely true. Abortions are not just for promiscuous women, young women or women who don’t want children.

59% of US women who have abortions already have children.

59% of US women who have abortions are between the age of 20 and 29.

But being able to speak out publicly about having had one requires a certain level of privilege.

There are women all over the world who would face being disowned by their families for speaking out, who would be shunned by their communities or risk professional ruin for being honest.

The women leading the charge on openly admitting to having had an abortion are mostly wealthy, white celebrities  Because they can.

Not for a moment am I suggesting that being a rich white woman makes sharing your abortion story easy. It’s still an incredibly brave thing to do. But for a lot of women it’s just not possible.

For many women putting their abortion story on social media would be dangerous. It could lead to violence from a family member or a partner. It could (illegally) get them fired. It could result in being excommunicated from their church or their community.

Even if you can share your abortion story without your parents deleting your phone number or your partner hurting you, you are still not obliged to.

There are women who want to shout about their abortions, who want to destigmatise through total honesty.

But not all of us can do that. Some of us only tell our abortion stories to close friends over a bottle of wine.

Others mention it rarely, and only to their partner.

There are women who will take the secret of their abortion to the grave.

None of these women are wrong.

If you feel comfortable talking publicly about your abortion then that is brilliant. But you do not have to.

Reproductive freedom should not be contingent on the willingness of women to spill their most intimate experiences.

We deserve the freedom to choose what happens inside our own bodies, and we should not have to earn that freedom by giving total strangers the details of our medical history.

If you would like to support the efforts to combat this legislation without sharing your abortion story, you can donate to the Yellowhammer fund. 

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