Seattleite Amelia Bonow is not the type to whisper about anything. But her abortion was something she kept to herself – until a few days ago.
Bonow wrote on Facebook: “Hi guys. Like a year ago I had an abortion at the Planned Parenthood on Madison Avenue. And I remember this experience with a nearly inexpressible level of gratitude … I have a good heart. And having an abortion made me happy in a totally unqualified way. Why shouldn’t I be happy that I was not forced to become a mother?”
Bonow’s Facebook post – and the hash tag that went with it – turned into a viral campaign that invites women to share their abortion experiences. Bonow and Seattle writer Lindy West launched #ShoutYourAbortion after the U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to defund Planned Parenthood.
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) September 19, 2015
Thousands responded with tweets about their own abortions or in favor of abortion rights – and many used the hashtag to rail against abortion.
Bonow told KUOW’s Jeannie Yandel that she wrote her original post because in Seattle, “we’re liberals, we’re feminists, we’re punk rock, we’re queer. We talk about things that mainstream culture tends to avoid.”
A 2011 study estimated that about 30 percent of women in the U.S. would have an abortion, based on 2000-2008 rates. But Bonow said that even though many of her friends have had abortions, it just wasn’t talked about.
“I think my own silence had been in some way influenced by stigma,” she said. “It was just a moment that I realized, we need to take back the narrative.”
The reaction to #ShoutYourAbortion was rapid and at times extreme.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied to the hashtag.
I've never wanted to have children, so I had an abortion. I'm thriving, without guilt, without shame, without apologies. #ShoutYourAbortion
— favianna rodriguez (@favianna) September 21, 2015
I've had 2 abortions. I don't have to justify or explain them to anybody. My life is more valuable than a potential life. #shoutyourabortion
— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) September 21, 2015
But opponents were quick to attack. Some called the hashtag essentially a celebration of abortion.
Wow. #shoutyourabortion is a trending hashtag? This is how low the morals of this country have dropped. People are proud of this? So sad.
— Chris Brusca (@C_Brusca) September 21, 2015
I'm pro-choice, but the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag is just unnecessary. There is a difference between no shame, and celebration. No, no.
— Kelsea Greene (@KelseaGreene) September 23, 2015
— _AG_ (@ag_texas) September 21, 2015
Bonow calls that a “really reductive take.”
“There’s nothing in shouting that is glorifying anything,” she said. “A shout is simply the opposite of silence. It’s the opposite of whispering, which is what me and my lady friends have been doing for years even though we all know that the reasons that people are whispering about abortion are shame, stigma – and that stigma is rooted in some version of morality which we do not ascribe to.”
KUOW producer Jeannie Yandel won a 2016 Gracie Award for this interview in the interview program or feature category.
This story originally aired September 23, 2015.