In September last year, activist Amelia Bonow told everyone she knows – frankly and without shame – about her abortion. That simple yet deeply taboo gesture snowballed into an international destigmatisation campaign called #ShoutYourAbortion (full disclosure: I helped), which Bonow is expanding in 2016 – a welcome development as the US barrels toward an election that could put women’s reproductive health services in jeopardy.
For years, pro-choicers have been on the defensive, letting the far right define not just the timbre of the conversation about abortion (hushed, apologetic), but who abortion-seekers and providers are (murderers, criminals). My mother, from the 1970s through the 90s, worked at several hospitals where she was among only a handful of nurses willing to assist on abortions. One fellow nurse was a devotee of Operation Rescue (“Be a hero, save a whale; save a baby, go to jail”), the anti-choice group that – among other acts of stalking gussied up as “direct action” – gave the murderer of Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller the specifics of his schedule and whereabouts. (After surviving multiple firebombings and a previous assassination attempt in which Tiller was shot five times, Dr Tiller was shot point-blank in the head during services at his church in 2009.) This nurse wouldn’t even perform vasectomies, because every sperm is a “pre-born” treasure. Those are the people who are still framing how we talk about abortion; right now, in 2016, those people are being coddled by mainstream politicians.