The first live-stream ‘abortion speakout’ took place online on Thursday. The event was held by the 1 in 3 Campaign. From their website:
The 3 in 1 Campaign is a grassroots movement to start a new conversation about abortion—telling our stories, on our own terms. Together, we can end the stigma and shame women are made to feel about abortion. As we share our stories we begin to build a culture of compassion, empathy, and support for access to basic health care.
Women who have had abortions are so stigmatized by society’s judgements that they usually keep the fact a secret. Maya Angelou once wrote:
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
The goal of the abortion speakout is knowledge and empathy.
The goal is not just to reduce the agony of untold stories, but to put a face on who gets abortions —basically every kind of woman imaginable. Abortions are such a closely held secret that most people have no idea how many of those they love have actually undergone one.
Putting a human face on those in need of having their civil rights protected is one of the most effective tactics there is for engendering empathy. When protests against segregation were taking place in the 60’s, national news shows broadcast black children under attack by police dogs and water cannons. The images engaged the sympathy and support of the nation for the civil rights movement.
The anti-choice faction of society has been incredibly loud — far louder than its size warrants. It’s often true of fanatical elements that they seek to drown out, through sheer volume, other voices that would engender compassion.
It isn’t the fact of abortion itself that inhibits women from speaking out; it’s the fear of backlash. Most women who choose abortions do so in order to have a better quality of life. The vast majority do not have regrets about making that choice.
The 1 in 3 Campaign refers to the fact that one in three American women will have an abortion. The campaign is a project of the non-profit organization, Advocates for Youth. Spokesperson Julia Reticker-Flynn wrote in an e-mail to Think Progress:
Research indicates that if you know someone who has had an abortion, you are more likely to support abortion access. If one in three women have had an abortion in her lifetime, theoretically everyone knows someone who has had an abortion. Through breaking the silence around abortion, we can build support for abortion access, thus influencing public policy.
Women need a safe place to break their silence.
The 1 in 3 Campaign website is a safe place for women to break their silence, share their stories, and receive the support of a caring community.
Marycruz Figueroa participated in Thursday’s national speakout. She told the Washington Post that she had been worried about her mental health if she carried through with her pregnancy. She said:
My well-being does matter … I am not my abortion. I have wants and needs, fears and hurts…when we shame, when we stigmatize the woman who has an abortion, we’re just adding to the hurt.
Figueroa saw an ultrasound of the fetus before the abortion. She described it as looking like ‘a speck’. Afterwards, she felt relief and sadness, but she added:
The sadness I felt is not the same thing as regret. I have no doubts, no regrets.
That’s part of what speakouts are meant to convey. They are not a new phenomenon. The first one was held in New York City in 1969 — several years before Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court. That speakout was the brainchild of a feminist group, the Redstockings.
The Redstockings were furious that legislators were holding hearings on abortion that included testimony only from men and one nun. Subsequently, in 1970, New York became the first state to legalize abortion on demand.
While Thursday’s #1in3Speaks was the first to be live-streamed, with the conversation lasting eight hours, college campuses are becoming involved in holding other speakouts. Twenty campuses held watch parties on Thursday and others will schedule their own events throughout the year.
Michelle Kinsey Bruns, an activist with Advocates for Youth, was an online participant Thursday. She said:
It really boggles my mind every day that one in three women have an abortion but it’s stigmatized in this country, where we think its young teens or ‘welfare queens’. It’s not. It’s people you know, who are silenced by the assumption of what their lives are like.
Those who’ve had abortions are our sisters, mothers, children, aunts, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, ourselves. Think you don’t know a woman who has had an abortion? Try asking. But only if you can withhold judgement when you hear the answer.