On September 19, 2015, I blew up my life. Not intentionally—I was in Seattle, looking forward to finishing a master’s program in mental health counseling. In fact, I was supposed to be writing a paper when I found out that the House of Representatives had voted to defund Planned Parenthood. I kind of unraveled, sitting on my couch crying, wondering, Who’s standing up for the clinic workers? And for women who have abortions? I opened Facebook and, without thinking, wrote, "Like a year ago, I had an abortion at Planned Parenthood...and I remember this experience with a nearly inexpressible level of gratitude." I hit Post 153 words later, and everything changed.
I’d been going to Planned Parenthood for my sexual and reproductive healthcare since I was a teen, and I’d long been a vocal supporter of its work—and of women’s reproductive freedom in general. But after the House vote, it struck me that the times I’d ranted about abortion rights, I hadn’t actually invoked my own experience. On some level, I’d internalized the stigma—though I honestly wasn’t ashamed. Then why hide? It wasn’t out of character for me to disclose something so personal online. What was out of character was my silence.
Right after my Facebook post, people I knew started chiming in with their own abortion stories. I texted a screenshot to my friend Lindy, who asked to tweet it. I said, "Sure," then ran out to catch a bus. After a couple of blocks, I looked at my phone and saw all-caps texts from her. The hashtag she added, #ShoutYourAbortion, had gone viral. Over the next couple of days, tens of thousands of women flooded social media to talk about their abortions. And I received abuse and threats; one site released my home address. I was inundated by media requests and had some tough conversations— my conservative 93-year-old grandmother wasn’t thrilled to hear Glenn Beck talking about me on his radio show. But after we discussed it for an hour on the phone, even she said she was proud of me.
Anti-choice politicians have dominated the dialogue because many people think they don’t know anyone who’s had an abortion. But nearly one in four women has, and 95 percent have reported feeling that it was the right decision. The anti- choice movement wants it to be terrifying to speak the truth, because we can’t advocate for something we can’t say out loud. But the more of us who speak out, the clearer it becomes that all sorts of people have abortions, including people you love.
With my Facebook post, I put everything on the line—it never occurred to me to go back to school or continue my life as it had been. #ShoutYourAbortion has been tweeted more than 300,000 times. We’re a legit organization, and we’ll publish our first book this fall. The other day, I told the whole story to a guy in a bar, and he said, "What you’re doing takes real balls." I corrected him: "I think you mean ovaries."
Following the U.S. Congress’s initial efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, Amelia Bonow’s unapologetic abortion disclosure catalyzed a viral outpouring of abortion stories on social media via the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion and received extensive media attention including front page coverage from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Bonow has subsequently developed Shout Your Abortion (SYA) into a nationwide movement working to create places for people to discuss their abortions, online, in art and media, and in real life events all over the country. Bonow proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the Abortion Care Network and her writing has appeared in BUST, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, Salon, and the Stranger.
Check out the Kickstarter for Shout Your Abortion HERE!