As the US rolls back women’s rights in the state of Alabama with plans to make abortion illegal after the six-week mark of pregnancy, women are taking to the streets – and social media – in protest.
Six-week abortion ban
Busy Phillips is one of those women. The conservative Alabama bill, which would not even allow women whose pregnancies are the result of rape or incest to have a termination past the six-week mark of pregnancy, has lit a fire under the actor and mum (and countless others).
Busy’s urging women to share their own stories of having an abortion in a bid to destigmatise what – for many women – is a necessary procedure and stop bills like this in their tracks.
On Twitter Busy pointed out that all kinds of women choose to end a pregnancy, for all kinds of reasons. She then encouraged women to tell their stories to illustrate just how vital access to abortion is.
Busy notes that stigma and shame mean women may not have previously voiced just how important safe access to abortion was for them, but that the time was ripe to speak up in the name of reproductive rights, whatever the reason.
“1 in 4 women have had an abortion,” she tweeted. “Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but
#youknowme. So let’s do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let’s share it and start to end the shame. Use #youknowme and share your truth.”
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1 in 4 women have had an abortion. Many people think they don't know someone who has, but #youknowme. So let's do this: if you are also the 1 in 4, let's share it and start to end the shame. Use #youknowme and share your truth.
— Busy Philipps (@BusyPhilipps) May 15, 2019
In response to this callout, the stories began flowing in, with women sharing their own intensely personal stories and highlighting how important having the choice to end an unwanted pregnancy was to them.
Reasons for choosing not to continue a pregnancy were varied, and women tweeting on the #youknowme hashtag passionately agreed that it’s a basic human right to have this choice.
I was 27. My then-boyfriend, who was big on "pulling out in time", thought we should consider having it and I said something like DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH I AM ON THE VERGE OF DOING?? 2 years later I started shooting my first feature. #youknowme https://t.co/AA6kiKKz0v
— Miranda July (@Miranda_July) May 15, 2019
I had an abortion in my early 20s. I have zero regrets. Because I was able to exercise my right to choose then, I can provide a good life for my children now. #SorryNotSorry #YouKnowMe #RoeVWade https://t.co/bjQ1GGDfyZ
— Maureen Shaw (@MaureenShaw) May 15, 2019
I have had two abortions. One before I was ready to be a parent and another when I couldn't physically, emotionally or financially be a parent again. Both are directly responsible for my being the brilliant and powerful woman I am. Those abortions saved me. #YouKnowMe
— Crista Anne (@pinkness) May 15, 2019
— Jenny Lawson (@TheBloggess) May 15, 2019
“Calling me a whore”
The Good Place star Jameela Jamil joined the movement, indicating she too had terminated a pregnancy and was met with abuse from men on Twitter.
“A LOT of men calling me a whore and telling me I ‘shouldn’t have opened my legs’ and that I should have used contraception. Not that it justifies my right to choose, but I DID use contraception, and it didn’t work, it doesn’t always work. It could happen to you, you utter clowns,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet.
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) May 15, 2019
Forcing abortions underground
The Fifth Element star Mila Jovovich spoke up too, pointing out that banning abortion will just force women to have terminations in unsafe conditions.
“Abortion is hard enough for women on an emotional level without having to go through it in potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions,” she wrote on Instagram in a post that detailed her own life-saving termination undertaken when she went into labour during her 18th week of pregnancy in Eastern Europe while shooting a film.
“I was alone and helpless. When I think about the fact that women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions than I did because of new laws, my stomach turns,” Mila wrote.
View this post on Instagram
I don’t like to get political and I try to only do it if a really have to and this is one of those times. If someone doesn’t want to continue reading, you have been warned. Our rights as women to obtain safe abortions by experienced doctors are again at stake. Last Tuesday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a draconian bill into law that outlaws all abortions after six weeks — before most women even realize they’re pregnant — including in cases of RAPE OR INCEST. This makes Georgia the sixth state to pass such a restrictive six-week abortion ban, joining Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. These laws haven’t been passed yet, but lawmakers in these states are trying. Abortion is hard enough for women on an emotional level without having to go through it in potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions. I myself went through an emergency abortion 2 years ago. I was 4 1/2 months pregnant and shooting on location in Eastern Europe. I went into pre term labor and told that I had to be awake for the whole procedure. It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever gone through. I still have nightmares about it. I was alone and helpless. When I think about the fact that women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions than I did because of new laws, my stomach turns. I spiraled into one of the worst depressions of my life and had to work extremely hard to find my way out. I took time off of my career. I isolated myself for months and had to keep a strong face for my two amazing kids. I started gardening, eating healthier and going to the gym everyday because I didn’t want to jump into taking anti depressants unless I had tried every other alternative. Thank God I was able to find my way out of that personal hell without turning to medication, but the memory of what I went through and what I lost will be with me till the day I die. Abortion is a nightmare at its best. No woman wants to go through that. But we have to fight to make sure our rights are preserved to obtain a safe one if we need to. I never wanted to speak about this experience. But I cannot remain silent when so much is at stake. #prochoice #prochoicegeneration
The strictest ban yet
Ridiculously, the Alabama bill would mean doctors can face up to 99 years in prison for carrying out a pregnancy termination.
“The abortion ban is the strictest in the US and allows an exception only when the woman’s health is at serious risk,” The Guardian reports.
“The Alabama legislation, which passed by a vote of 25-6 on Tuesday night, makes it a class A felony for a doctor to perform an abortion in the state, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison. Women would not face criminal penalties for getting an abortion.”
Today, I signed into law the Alabama Human Life Protection Act. To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious & that every life is a sacred gift from God. https://t.co/DwKJyAjSs8 pic.twitter.com/PIUQip6nmw
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) May 15, 2019
As she passed the law, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey noted that it may be unenforceable due to the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion in all 50 states, but that the state would do their best to challenge that decision.
A furious Hilary Clinton voiced her disappointment over the Alabama bill, reminding her followers that Alabama is not the only state to legislate against women’s reproductive rights.
“The abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi are appalling attacks on women’s lives and fundamental freedoms. Women’s rights are human rights. We will not go back,” she tweeted.
The abortion bans in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi are appalling attacks on women's lives and fundamental freedoms.
Women's rights are human rights.
We will not go back.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 15, 2019
Governed by criminal law
Locally, abortion law is complicated and varied. Abortion is the subject of criminal law in all Australian states and territories, except the Australian Capital Territory.
In most states, women can access an abortion if they jump through a number of hoops including things like getting approval from two doctors or meeting stringent criteria.
Despite recent pushes for law reform in New South Wales, abortion is still a criminal offence in that state.