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Abortion Speakout harkens Back to Pro-choice Activism’s Roots

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January 21, 2016

On January 19th, over 100 people shared their abortion stories during a six hour live-streamed Abortion Speakout hosted by the 1 in 3 Campaign, a grassroots organization dedicated to ending the shame people are made to feel about their abortion . Dubbed the “people’s brief” to the Supreme Court, the speakout provided a platform for people from around the country to share their experiences and respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to review one of the most important abortion cases in two decades.

The virtual Speakout brought a decidedly vintage political strategy into the 21st century. Providing a platform for people who have had an abortion to tell their beautifully complex stories free of shame is an unflinchingly radical practice which predates the “right to privacy” celebrated in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Before Roe, radical feminist activists in the Women’s Liberation Movement employed innovative and unapologetic methods to call for the repeal of all abortion laws as part of their provocative and far-reaching platform. In one historic moment, they interrupted a so-called panel of experts (composed of all men and one nun) convening to consider reforms to strict anti-abortion laws by providing the panel their own, albeit uninvited, expert testimony. Woman after woman stood up to the out-of-touch elites and forced them to listen to the painful reality of outlawing abortion.

The voices and demands made by 70s-era feminist activists echoed throughout the stories told by people in the 1 in 3 speakout. People described their harrowing experiences accessing abortion care and the lack of emotional support after the procedure. But for many, abortion was not the distressing or morally fraught experience that we imagine it to be. Instead, these people shared the immense relief they felt when they were able to control what happened to their  bodies. Like the activists before them, people came together to speak back to the powerful who refuse to listen.

The diversity of experiences during the speakout demonstrated that even amidst the countless legal and political attacks we’ve endured since Roe, we persevere and we fight back. The 1 in 3 Speakout shows that we are dedicated to ending the stigma that continues to shroud abortion in mystery and silence. And, like the radical activists before us, we won’t stop until everyone can access an abortion on demand without apology.

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