Over this past weekend, women began to share their personal stories about getting abortions on social media, challenging the popular narrative that abortion = lifelong guilt and regret. Using the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, women whose abortions worked out for the best opened up about them on Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to shut down the stigma.
The campaign is a simple one: women unapologetically open up about having had an abortion, to claim back a decision that has everything to do with them and nothing to do with anyone else.
The hashtag was created after writer Lindy West shared the following tweet of a Facebook post written by fellow writer Amelia Bonow.
— Lindy West (@thelindywest) September 19, 2015
West told Buzzfeed she posted the status to publically and vocally align herself with Planned Parenthood – and let other women know that, by staying silent, they were allowing the stigma to win. West then followed by posting her own tweet about her own experience.
More women followed, using the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag used in the original post. Suddenly, thousands of women were speaking openly about why they chose to get an abortion.
Had an abortion procedure done at age 22 because I was WAY too young to parent. Have never, ever regretted it. #ShoutYourAbortion
— Mary Emily O’Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) September 20, 2015
Women are not merely portals through which other human beings enter the world. They are fully as human as you are. #shoutyourabortion
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) September 21, 2015
While many people were upset by the hashtag, Bonow insists the intention was not to ‘glorify abortion’ in any way. Ultimately, the hashtag hopes to change the way society talks about abortion – women should have the freedom to speak about it without being judged for a personal choice.
It’s worth a mention that a study published in the PLOS ONE journal found that 95% of women who have had abortions have no regrets about the decision. Nearly 670 women were surveyed over a period of three years post-abortion. The most common reasons for abortion were financial considerations (40%) and it not being ‘the right time’ (36%). These results offer a statistical argument against the popular claim that women who have abortions suffer emotionally as a result. While the majority of the women (53%) initially found the decision to be a difficult one, and experienced lingering emotions immediately after, years down the line the vast majority were ultimately happy with their choice.
Luckily, South Africa is one of the few societies that legally protect sexual and reproductive health rights. All South Africans are free to express and exercise their sexual and reproductive-health rights, and the choices they make are protected by the constitution. Even so, we still face challenges in creating complete sexual and reproductive-health access, such as family planning, contraception, psychosocial support and counselling.
It’s not a comfortable conversation but it’s a necessary one. Women have agency, and the right to exercise it – and, more than anything, we know the best decisions to make for ourselves.