This Abortion Rights Group Encourages More Women to Share Their Abortion Stories

A student in New York with dreams of working in public health, Schurr’s life came to an abrupt end when she discovered she had become pregnant following the assault in 2014.

“My pregnancy couldn’t have been more unplanned or unwanted — it resulted from an encounter I didn’t want to have and asked to end,” Schurr told CNN.

Abortion seemed to be her only option. But Schurr, raised in a conservative Catholic family, was terrified of what that meant.

“I was afraid to only trust information from Planned Parenthood – because I had been told all my life how biased they were and that they only provided abortion services for for-profit,” Schurr said, referring to the lies being pushed against nonprofit sex and sexual associations. reproductive health care provider who provides abortion services.

But browsing the websites of crisis pregnancy centers, which sometimes rely on misinformation to dissuade women from having abortions, only scared her more. Eventually, Schurr’s doctor referred her to a family planning clinic.

“I was free to make my choice without hesitation or barriers simply because I was fortunate enough to live in the New York metropolitan area,” said Schurr, who now works as an administrative assistant for the think tank on reproductive rights Guttmacher Institute.

The freedom to make that choice is something that many Americans don’t have; a people like Schurr fights for.

Republican-dominated legislatures — including those in Oklahoma, Idaho and Arizona — have passed a series of new restrictions on abortion in recent weeks. They range from limiting access to abortion to criminalizing the performance or attempt to perform the procedure. In many of these cases, the law does not provide exceptions for rape, incest or medical emergencies.
In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in one of its most important cases in decades – one that is seen as shaping the future of abortion rights in the United States. A final decision is expected in June.
A ruling that overturns current Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights — and specifically overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion — could lead to the implementation of new abortion bans and the maintenance of existing bans in states around the world. country.
Proponents of such legislation often invoke religious doctrine and values, viewing abortion as tantamount to murder. But abortion rights campaigners say the decision to give birth or not is personal and enshrined in civil liberties. They also say access to abortion can save lives.

“Abortion is a human right,” Schurr said. “Political attacks on our fundamental right to abortion – the right to bodily autonomy, the right to chart our own path in life, the right to protect our health and well-being – are patently unconstitutional, immoral, shameful and pathetic.”

While abortion rights protests often take the form of rallies, donations and political actions, there is another weapon that some wield: their stories.

Activists say ‘Scream your abortion’

In 2015, after Republicans in Congress tried to pull funding for Planned Parenthood, Amelia Bonow took to Facebook with her own abortion story. Inspired to tell the truth, she shared her experience without “sadness, shame or regret”.

Her Facebook post was shared by fellow feminist and social justice activist Lindy West, who added the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. Within days, the hashtag went viral, with thousands of women across the country adding their own stories.

The goal of the social media campaign, Bonow told CNN, was to “create ways for people to share their abortion stories and normalize abortion in the broader culture.”

Now, Shout Your Abortion (SYA), an abortion rights nonprofit co-founded by Bonow and West, shares thousands of stories from people of all ages, races and gender identities.

“We’re here. We have abortions, and we talk about them, whatever volume we choose,” the website Shout Your Abortion says. “It’s time for us to take back our own stories.”
Despite the controversy surrounding abortion, it is a common health intervention in the United States, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Six out of 10 unexpected pregnancies end in abortion, the WHO reported in 2021.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, approximately one in four American women will have an abortion before the age of 45.

But because abortion is considered taboo, most people don’t share their experiences, SYA says, leading to feelings of shame, guilt and isolation. Avoiding the topic also creates an environment rife with misinformation and ultimately harmful legislation.

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This is why SYA believes that sharing stories, as well as supporting and funding clinics, is essential to protecting abortion rights.

“We believe that doing all of these things openly, to the extent a person is comfortable doing so, is how we’re going to build a broad and uncompromising base of support for abortion access,” Bonow said. “We need to start thinking about access to abortion as a community responsibility.”

For some, the discussion may seem too public, too open. But women like Arielle Cohen disagree.

In 2012, Cohen was a student at SUNY Purchase — a campus leader with dreams of becoming a writer.

When she got pregnant mid-semester, with just $1,000 left to last until the end, an abortion seemed like her only choice.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t been able to scrape together the money for those two pills,” Cohen told CNN.

Arielle Cohen.

Sharing her experience hasn’t been easy, Cohen says, noting that abortions are hard to get, hard to pay for and hard to approach.

“The stigma and isolation I faced made me extremely depressed,” she said. “I was embarrassed to be depressed and I was ashamed that I didn’t know how to talk about it.”

“I am still deeply troubled by the overwhelming stigma that I faced, that so many in my place still face,” Cohen said.

Joining the #ShoutYourAbortion movement has allowed Cohen to see firsthand the impact sharing her story has had on others.

“Today I’m really proud to say I had an abortion,” Cohen said. “I’m proud to know that when I first spoke about this publicly, it created a domino effect where other people told me their stories for the first time. I’m honored to hold these stories for the others.”

A long way to go

Heather Young remembers turning 17 and facing a crowd outside a clinic in Middletown, Ohio, where she had a surgical abortion.

“The procedure wasn’t bad, the clinic was quiet and very clean,” Young, now 23, told CNN. “I’ll never forget the protesters outside declaiming Jesus…all the stares and stares I received as I walked in.”

She remembers lying on the table as a nurse held her hand, talking to Young every step of the way and never once letting go of her.

“Even though it was a difficult time in my life, I will never forget the amazing people who helped me access the care I needed and deserved,” she said.

Young also feels like the men and women shouting outside the clinic didn’t know enough about her situation to pass judgment.

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As a high school student, Young says she was already struggling with mental health and financial issues when she became pregnant.

“The guy who got me pregnant immediately went from looking loving and sweet to being mean,” she said.

“I absolutely did not want to bring a child into the world with my youth and certainly not with the person I slept with,” she said.

Young says she is grateful for the kindness of the clinic staff, as well as all the women who inspired her to share her abortion story. Only then, she says, will the subject become easier to broach.

“We need to stop tiptoeing around the word abortion,” Young said. “People need to know that people have abortions for all reasons, not just life or death situations. I was 17, I was scared. I probably wouldn’t be here today without my mom and the doctors who helped me.”

The campaign launched by Bonow and West has made great strides since 2015.

In addition to sharing thousands of abortion stories, the group now focuses on raising awareness of abortion pills to help expand access to abortion, especially for patients who live in states where it has been restricted.
The group has a long way to go, with recent legislation including a measure in Oklahoma that would impose a near total ban on abortion. But SYA says their work is more important than ever and the fight for justice will continue, one story at a time.

“I’m not ashamed that it took years to say that,” Cohen said. “I’m not ashamed that it’s difficult. I’m not ashamed that I’m still thinking about it in every aspect. I’m not ashamed that it’s painful. And I’m not going to shut up about it. “


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