Despite abortion being legal for over 40 years, the past few weeks have proven that the stigma around the practice is alive and well (see: the heavily-edited "undercover" Planned Parenthood videos, or the impassioned anti-choice rhetoric at the first two GOP debates). With the House of Representatives having voted to defund Planned Parenthood last Friday, it feels like anti-abortion sentiment is louder than ever.
That's why women are taking to Twitter to speak openly about their abortion experiences through the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. Writer Lindy West conceived of the hashtag on Saturday along with Amelia Bonow, who had posted the following on Facebook in response to the House's decision:
"Anti-choice/pro-forced-birth activists benefit from the fact that, in our culture, abortion is something we talk about in whispers, in corners, in private with other women, or not at all," West told MTV News. "Without any open public discourse about the reality of abortion -- the reality being that it is a basic medical procedure and a third of people with uteruses will have one -- opponents are able to spin it as anything they want."
Now, #ShoutYourAbortion has done more than spark a trending topic -- it has created an online community of women sharing their personal stories and supporting one another other. In the process, they are affirming that abortion isn't a shameful act. This is an important message for everyone to hear: Research has shown that the majority of women feel more relief than regret after having an abortion, but anti-abortion stigma can increase emotional distress after the procedure.
West also shared her own story using the hashtag:
Sometimes, being a woman can feel like clearing one biological hurdle after another, every day, forever. But efforts like #ShoutYourAbortion have the potential to make at least one hurdle -- the stigma of abortion -- a little bit smaller.