#ShoutYourAbortion: a Twitter group hug won’t save Planned Parenthood

Ella Whelan

Ella Whelan
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Topics USA

A new hashtag campaign has begun in the US in response to calls from anti-choice activists and Republican politicians to defund US reproductive healthcare provider Planned Parenthood. #ShoutYourAbortion was started by American journalist Lindy West to encourage women to share their stories of having abortions and ensure that women know ‘abortion is a thing you can say out loud’.

Now, abortion is a thing you can say out loud in the US, but it still isn’t free and legal. The attacks on Planned Parenthood should be met with more than awareness-raising hashtags – this a real opportunity to fight for abortion to be free, legal and without condition.

However, it seems that the new feminists aren’t bothered with fighting this hard battle. Instead, they are content with talking about their own lives and their own experiences rather than looking for what we can do to improve women’s choices in the future. #ShoutYourAbortion argues that women who choose to refrain from talking publicly about their abortions are trapped and silenced by shame and regret. But what this campaign seems to miss is that the only thing that will aid women’s access to reproductive healthcare is an uncompromising argument for freedom – not a mothers’ meeting about past events.

Unfortunately, this is literally what some feminists are suggesting women do. Lena Dunham’s new newsletter ‘Lenny’ called for women to ask their mothers about what abortions were like before Roe v Wade. ‘Talking about it keeps it from being shameful’, she wrote. ‘It reminds us of where we’ve come from and why we can’t go back there.’

Not only are these feminists avoiding the hard arguments – they’re also painting a damaging picture of women. Firstly, they suggest that we must relive our past and private experiences on a public platform in order to prove our arguments; rather than arguing for freedom in all cases, in spite of personal experience or circumstance, we must lay ourselves bare as vulnerable and in need of help. Secondly, they argue for reproductive choice from a position of weakness: women, they claim, need protecting from nasty Republicans, and so we must group-hug on Twitter rather than fight tooth and nail for our right to choose what we do with our bodies.

The pro-choice movement is compromised by such self-indulgent and intrusive campaigns, which seek to tell women how to feel rather than encourage us to think politically. It is important to argue for women to have access to abortion, not worry about different people’s reactions to the choices women make. The fact that some women may regret their abortions is irrelevant – the important thing is having that initial choice. I don’t need to read personal anecdotes to know that I believe abortion should be available as early as possible and as late as necessary.

Ella Whelan is staff writer at spiked.

Ella is chairing the discussion ‘Campus Wars: safe or sanitised?’ at the Battle of Ideas festival in London on Saturday 17 October. Get your tickets here.

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