Online Movement Talks Candidly About Abortion
- 11/21/2014 by Chanel Dubofsky (

When the national abortion rights debate takes center stage, it often seems that the loudest opponents—how to put this mildly?—lack a uterus and don't have any realistic experience with the difficult choice one in three women makes to end a pregnancy. Whether it's taboo or lack of comfort in that realm, the voices of women who have actually had abortions are rarely heard—a problem, considering about half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy.

That's a conversation the 1 in 3 Campaign is working to change. The grassroots project encourages people to tell their abortion stories with the first ever live-streamed abortion speak-out on Thursday November 21st from 1 to 9 p.m. here online under the Twitter hashtag #1in3speaks or onFacebook. 

An abortion speak-out is exactly what it sounds like—a space in which women who have had abortions can talk about their experiences in a safe environment. The style of this bold event has a long history in activism—the first known abortion speak-out happened in New York City in 1969, when the feminist group RedStockings interrupted a meeting of the New York Joint Legislative Committee on the Problems of Public Health on the state’s abortion law. The abortion “experts” present at the meeting were all men, with the exception of one, and RedStockings insisted that the committee hear the voices of those who had experienced abortion.

Advocates for Youth, the organization that houses the 1 in 3 Project, chose the Internet as a venue for the speak-out to reach a wide audience. More than a hundred people signed up to speak out via phone or Skype, including noted feminists such as Lizz Winstead, journalist Jessica Valenti, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health Executive Director Jessica Gonzáles-Rojas.

“Our mission is to  build a new conversation around abortion, one that’s grounded in the lived experiences of real people,” said Julia Reticker-Flynn, an associate director for mobilization at Advocates for Youth. “Shame and stigma have played a role for too long, and it’s time to break down stereotypes and begin to change the culture.”

Speaking out, even from the safety of one's home, isn't easy for women considering that the Internet has proved a dangerous place, as evidenced by everything from GamerGate to the everyday experience of women existing in spaces like Twitter. How then, will an abortion speak-out deal with the treachery of trolls and antichoicers? Comments are disabled on 1 in 3’s website, and people can anonymously share written stories or upload a video. Folks who will be watching Thursday’s speak-out are asked to sign a pledge to actively oppose abortion stigma and to show their support for those telling their stories. Viewers are also encouraged to publicly thank storytellers.

"Before 2011, we rarely saw storytelling about abortions,” said Retick-Flynn. “Since then, we’ve seen a lot of political attacks, and people want to do something. There have been moments of people breaking down the barrier of not talking about abortion, and recognition that stigma is harmful—Jackie Speier telling  her story on the House floor, saying, 'You’re talking about me.' We so rarely center the voices of real people, this is an important opportunity to bear witness to people’s real lives and honor their lived experiences.”

Got to 1 in 3 to learn more.