Shout Your Abortion isn’t trying to be ‘woke,’ these women say. They’re trying to expand perception
When Planned Parenthood came under attack in 2014 for providing abortions, plenty of people came to the organization's defense by pointing out the wide range of healthcare offered by its clinics.
But at that same time, Seattleite Amelia Bonow says she wasn't hearing anyone defending the organization because it offered abortions.
So Bonow made a Facebook post that went viral, courtesy of a hashtag added by Lindy West: #ShoutYourAbortion.
Shout your Abortion
Full length conversation between Amelia Bonow, Alana Edmonson, and Bill Radke.
The movement yielded a book co-edited by Bonow, which features an essay by student and reproductive rights activist Alana Edmonson.
Both women joined Bill Radke in studio for a conversation at full volume.
Transcript has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity .
Bill Radke: Alana, was there a time when you had felt silenced about your abortion?
Edmonson: Normally when I'm talking with family I could tell, initially, it felt like it was something that I was supposed to be silent about, and that we weren't supposed to talk about. Just kind of like like politics at the dinner table or something like that. But a little bit darker. We didn't all know why we weren't talking about it, we just knew that we weren't supposed to. So that kind of made me confused because I felt good about my abortion. I felt powerful and in control of my over my own body and my future. But I felt like I was being told to feel a different way, and that was confusing at first for sure.
Radke: Well, maybe some of our listeners are not used to hearing ‘I felt good’ or ‘I felt great about my abortion.’ What do you want listeners to know about your abortions? I know of two that you wrote about.
Edmonson: Yeah, I did have two. Basically, I had my first one when I was 21 years old. My partner at the time was 30. I was in denial about being pregnant for a while, and then when I finally owned up to it and took a test and found out I was pregnant, I called him and he just yelled the F word into the phone and hung up on me.
At the time I was letting go of my Christianity — I’m still spiritual, I’m just not Christian. But I had a lot of conflicting feelings. I felt that to have an abortion would be denying something the right to live. But at the same time I didn't feel like I was ending a human life. So I explored actually all of my options.
I considered adoption. One of my older sisters offered to raise the child herself. And I ended up in a crisis pregnancy center (CPC) also — that was confusing. Going to a place for help, to discuss all of my options, and then leaving with baby booties and a baby blanket…
Radke: These are places that have no intention of assisting you toward your abortion at all.
Bonow: They’re fake abortion clinics which target pregnant people who don't know what their options are. And they're often like signs on public transportation and places like that but just say like pregnant need help free ultrasound free pregnancy testing here. The implication of course is that a person will be able to see and hear like about all of their options.
But in reality, their sole purpose is to persuade people out of having abortions using a litany of misinformation and of psychological manipulation. CPC’s will tell folks that they are further along [in their pregnancy] than they are and that they won't be able to access abortion at the point in their pregnancy that they are even if that's not true. It's just a trick.
In many states, these CPC’s are federally funded. There are tons of states where there are way more CPCS than clinics. I would say probably most or are all states, I think.
Radke: What happened next?
Edmonson: I figured out that if I carried a baby to term, I would not be able to give it away. I would end up having it and I would keep it.
Radke: You decided that for yourself?
Edmonson: Yeah. I knew that if I gave birth to a child, I was taking it home with me. I’m a black woman — I have so many odds against me and I don’t need a baby on top of that.
I already have so many struggles just to achieve the success that I want, or that I’ve seen for myself, that I know that I can have. It didn’t seem like an obstacle I needed at the time. There’s already so much to deal with. I don’t need to also be a mother before I’m ready to. So I chose to get an abortion.
I went to the Planned Parenthood on Madison [in Seattle], which is also my doctor’s office, and I had a hard time the night before. But by the time I woke up, I felt so resolute, so calm and ready. The experience was really positive. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel any negativity. I was grateful that I had access and the means — abortions aren’t cheap — to control my future and to steer it where I want it to go.
Radke: Alana, you’ve mentioned in conversation with other people about their abortions, sometimes you’ve noticed some internalized socialization coloring your own reaction. You described a reaction you have sometimes when you hear someone’s had multiple abortions. What was that about?
Edmonson: The way that we’re taught to think about abortion, sometimes it’ll be okay if you’ve had one. That’s fine. But when you hear it’s like two, three, or four… I would say that we’re socialized to think, ‘Oh, you’ve had more than one. Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time?’
It’s like, ‘Oh, you didn’t wear enough clothing. You know you’ve got that cold because you didn’t dress appropriately, and that’s on you now, buddy.’ You know, it’s not. It’s not how it works. Getting pregnant isn’t a lesson, it’s just what our bodies naturally do sometimes, despite all odds.
Radke: Do you think there’s anywhere that you can meet someone who doesn’t want to dehumanize anyone, but has been taught that abortion is immoral or that it’s murder? Or are those two types of people who can’t speak to one another? Or how are we in dialogue together?
Bonow: Shout Your Abortion is all about increasing compassion. I certainly would not ever tell someone that they are wrong for believing that abortion takes a life. That’s absolutely their right to that framing, and it’s that theirs to believe.
However, it’s fundamentally an unjustifiable position if we allow one group of people who has a certain cosmology and feeling about when life begins to dictate the way that freedom works for everyone else — that’s just not the way that democracy is supposed to work. Ultimately, we’re not all going to agree about abortion. There’s always going to be people who think that it’s wrong, and there are going to be people that think it’s not wrong, but at the end of the day, people need to have abortions.
Like any society, when you look at what happens when abortion is unsafe or heavily regulated, people suffer. People have less healthy life outcomes in any possible metric. That’s not right. I also believe that anyone who is forced to continue a pregnancy that they don’t want has lost their right to life. To me, the only person in that equation is the pregnant person.
If someone who is religious, who believes that life begins at conception, disagrees with me — that's okay. But it feels totally insane to me that they would get to design legislation that applies to everyone, especially when we live in a country where 71 percent of Americans support Roe vs. Wade. So people who have abortions are in the norm. People who want to deny access to abortion because of a belief that life begins at conception, they are absolutely in the minority, and we should have legislation that reflects that.
Radke: Have you found yourself more able to fill in the humanity of people you may have had trouble doing that with?
Bonow: I don’t think I necessarily had trouble… I think before Shout Your Abortion, I had never spoken to someone who had five abortions before.
I think the vast majority of listeners probably are having an internal reaction to me even just saying someone’s who's had five abortions, and I think when that’s a person you’ve never spoken to, that’s a story you’ve never read, that’s unfathomable.
Ultimately, it’s totally a thing that happens and it happens for all sorts of different reasons. The only way demystify that situation, which sounds pretty extreme on paper, is to talk to someone about how that happened and what that was like for them.
We don't just want you to engage with our stories because it's the ‘woke’ thing to do or because you ‘owe us’ this attention of yours. We want you to expand your perception.
Radke: You say, Amelia that there's there's nothing brash about this but this started with your Facebook post, and then after that you posted:
“I JUST TOLD EVERYONE ON FACEBOOK ABOUT MY ABORTION. SORRY! LOL.”
Bonow: You know, it’s kind of funny to make your parents uncomfortable on social media. I'm not trying feign innocence and say I didn't know that people would have a reaction to this.
No — I knew that I was telling every extended family member, my former teachers, my old male bosses — I knew that I was telling all of those people that I'd had an abortion that I felt great about that.
That was not something that they'd probably ever heard someone say before. I think that there is something radical about celebrating exactly who you are and where you've been to get there in a world that promises to punish you for doing that.
So if there if it feels like there is a celebratory vibe there, it’s because I'm proud of myself for being who I am, and for being loud about it even though the opposition has tried to terrorize us into silence and has done so really effectively for forever. Why would I not be proud of that?
Produced for the web by Brie Ripley