Planned Parenthood Generation Action’s ‘The Abortion Speak Out’ provides safe space for people to share their stories
Despite the fact that one in three women have abortions in their lifetime, the long-standing stigma surrounding the procedure still persists. Planned Parenthood Generation Action at Virginia Commonwealth University partnered with Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project to host an event in hopes to help change that. The Abortion Speak Out, which took place Thursday at Firehouse Theatre was a space for people to gather and share their experiences.
The event was an outlet for those who have had abortions to share their stories those and to remember those lost due to unsafe procedures in areas where abortions are inaccessible.
Some participants took to the stage to share their personal stories, while others submitted anonymous online forms in advance for volunteer participants to read on their behalf.
For the purpose of maintaining a safe space, the images from this event reflect the anonymous nature of many of its participants. No faces are shown in great detail in many of the photographs.
The reasons why people chose abortions are nuanced and layered. The choice is different for every person, as exemplified by many of the stories shared at the event. Through having conversations and sharing stories, participants in the Abortion Speak Out spoke to normalize the procedure.
“I really hope that we facilitate a better conversation about abortion,” said Sara Thornton, President of Generation Action at VCU. “It’s just so stigmatized that people don’t even want to think about the word. So I’m hoping we’ll be more understanding and more empathetic with the conversation, just to be able to talk about it in different ways than we’ve usually heard about it.”
The significance of intersectionality was also emphasized at the event, as abortions are applicable to cisgender women of all races as well as transgender folks and genderqueer individuals.
According to a 2014 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit that works to advance sexual and reproductive health through research, policy analysis and education, “every public dollar invested in helping women avoid pregnancies they did not want to have saves $5.68 in Medicaid expenditures that otherwise would have gone to pregnancy-related care; in 2010, that amounted to a net government savings of $10.5 billion.”
“Abortions are “only a small part of what Planned Parenthood does, but it matters,” Thorton said.
One volunteer read an anonymous account of how her mother had a pregnancy complication with what would have been her elder twin siblings. A partial miscarriage had occurred and her health care provider, due to their own judgement of the procedure did not inform her mother that an abortion was a possible method of treatment. ‘
Several days passed, as her health deteriorated. Not only were the babies unable to come to full term (despite already being past the currently debated 20 weeks mark), but the mother herself was at great risk of dying. After seeking healthcare elsewhere, the mother had an abortion that saved her life and allowed her to continue to try for a family.
“I would not be here either,” the speaker read.
Another participant actually spoke of her own personal story. She read journal entries from both before and after her abortion that reflected the dichotomy of her thoughts as she knew what she needed and wanted to do. The speaker had been in an unhealthy romantic relationship, one that would have tethered her to the man, which may not have been the best outcome for she or the possible child. She cited that it “would have been selfish to bring a child into that situation.”
Some of the stories spoke of not being financially or emotionally ready to raise a child, while others recited short proclamations from the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion on Twitter.
With the progression of anti-abortion legislation in Congress, the weight of the potential outcome hung in the air for the room filled near capacity with about 60 Planned Parenthood supporters.
The total control the GOP has at the Congressional and Executive level puts the fate of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding in limbo. While the group has always been a nationally debated topic, the roll back of women’s access to safe and healthy abortions is all too possible now.
In January, the House passed HR-7, also known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. The legislation has passed the House, but has yet to pass the Senate and end up on President Trump’s desk.
HR-7 would permanently prohibit taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions as well as make the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortions, permanent across all federal expenditures.
Since 1994, three exceptions have been applied: rape, incest, or when a continued pregnancy would harm the life of the mother.
As of September 2016, there are 17 states that use their own funds to extend coverage to low-income women enrolled in Medicaid. Meanwhile, the rest of the states, including Virginia, have complied with the amendment.
Should HR-7 become law, all the states would have to fall in line.
Meanwhile advocates around the nation continue to take whatever actions they can to raise their voices and the voices of others.
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