The hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion has seen thousands of women take to social media to share their experiences of having an abortion. The social media movement sprang into action as the United States' House of Representatives voted on Friday (18 September) for legislation that would temporarily stop funding for Planned Parenthood, an organisation that supports women who want to have abortions.
The hashtag was started by Amelia Bonow, who said she was devastated when she heard about the vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Bonow had an abortion at one of Planned Parenthood's facilities and decided to share her experience on her Facebook page to let people know about how grateful she was to the organisation. She wrote: "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?"
Bonow's friend Lindy West, a freelance writer, then tweeted the post to her 60,000 followers and the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion took off with women from around the world weighing in to share their own positive experiences of having an abortion. Thousands of people have posted under the hashtag during the last 36 hours.
Speaking to IBTimes UK, Bonow said: "It's obvious that the war on abortion is not actually about ending abortion; the anti-choice movement is a war on women. The anti-choice movement is seeking to insert its own narrow, misogynistic definition of morality - born from Judeo-Christian values, patriarchy, and capitalism - into a conversation which is fundamentally about the right of women to control their own reproductive autonomy."
"Women everywhere are using #ShoutYourAbortion to talk about their abortion on their own terms, and claim the digital and cultural space that we should have been running this entire time. This conversation is about human rights, and by human I mean living breathing women who would lose their own right to life if they were forced to bear unwanted children."
With thousands of stories flooding in through the hashtag, Bonow has had a hard time keeping up with them. Of those she has read, she has been inspired by the strength of the women who chose to share their stories with the world. Bonow said she truly understood how powerful the hashtag had become when a Seattle businesswoman, Miki Sodos, posted her story on her Facebook page.
Sodos wrote: "September 25, 2003, I found out I was 6 weeks pregnant. My mother had died in my arms 6 days previously after a year of battling cancer. I was doing speed on a regular basis and about 2 inches from my face being in the gutter. My abortion was the first event I was able to control in a long time, and the catalyst to get my shit together. 12 years later I don't regret it one bit. I went by myself, never shed a tear, and never looked back.#shoutyourabortion"
Bonow said: "Miki shared her experience with the world, potentially making herself vulnerable to judgement from the people she sees every day. When I read Miki's post I knew that #ShoutYourAbortion had created a space for Miki and countless other women to publicly own their experiences in a new way – I knew we were on to something."
Planned Parenthood support
The vote to temporarily halt funding for Planned Parenthood comes amid claims that the charity has been selling aborted babies and their body parts for research. The charity has confirmed that their CO Cecile Richards will testify before a Congressional hearing if she is invited to do so.
"From the beginning, this relentless campaign has been about one thing: anti-abortion extremists who will do anything – lie, twist facts, villainise providers – in their quest to ban abortion and block millions from accessing basic reproductive health care," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Planned Parenthood supporter Bonow pointed out that the vast majority of services provided by the charity are "preventative healthcare measures" such as PAP smears, STI screenings and mammograms.
Thousands across the world agreed with Bonow's views and took to Twitter to defend the charity and the work they do. One Twitter user wrote: "Dear Republicans, Planned Parenthood isn't profiting off the deaths of children. You're thinking of the NRA."
Many others pointed out that defunding Planned Parenthood won't put a stop to abortions, but simply put a stop to safe abortions. Many have posted their stories on Twitter, ignoring those who tried to overtake the hashtag to attack the pro-choice movement.