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Lena Dunham responds to backlash over “distasteful” abortion comments

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During the newest episode of her podcast Women of the Hour, Lena Dunham tackled the topic of abortion, freedom of choice and women’s autonomy over their own bodies.

However the 30-year-old Girls actor has been forced to apologise for a “joke” she made while recalling a visit to Texas Planned Parenthood – describing a comment she made about wishing she’d had an abortion as “distasteful”.


Read more: The stigma of having an abortion later in life


In the podcast, Dunham discusses her reaction to a young woman’s request for her to share her own abortion story, explaining: “I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women’s options, I myself had never had an abortion.

“And I realised then that even I was carrying within myself stigma around this issue. Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt it was important that people know that I was unblemished in this department.”

Dunham detailed how the incident had caused her to re-evaluate her own internalised stigma about abortion – particularly as so many admirable women in her life, including her mother, had terminated pregnancies of their own, before saying: “Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had.”


Read more: Maggie Gyllenhaal on abortion, the paparazzi, and ‘subtle’ sexism


Her remarks sparked outrage on social media, from both pro- and anti-abortion groups.

One wrote: “Normally I roll my eyes at Dunham's silliness, but this made me so angry. An abortion isn't something you get because it's ‘on trend.’”

Another added: “I don’t believe abortions are inherently stressful or sad, but it’s incredibly out of touch and privileged for Lena Dunham to ‘wish’ for one.

Dunham has now released a statement apologising for her controversial “joke”.

Taking to Instagram, she explained: “My latest podcast episode was meant to tell a multifaceted story about reproductive choice in America, to explain the many reasons women do or don't choose to have children and what bodily autonomy really means.

“I'm so proud of the medley of voices in the episode. I truly hope a distasteful joke on my part won't diminish the amazing work of all the women who participated. My words were spoken from a sort of ‘delusional girl’ persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that's what my TV show is too) and it didn't translate.

“That's my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy.”

My latest podcast episode was meant to tell a multifaceted story about reproductive choice in America, to explain the many reasons women do or don't choose to have children and what bodily autonomy really means. I'm so proud of the medley of voices in the episode. I truly hope a distasteful joke on my part won't diminish the amazing work of all the women who participated. My words were spoken from a sort of "delusional girl" persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that's what my TV show is too) and it didn't translate. That's my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don't convey this truth clearly. I know plenty of people will never like a thing that leaves my lips, mea culpas or no, but this apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me. You mean everything to me. My life is and always will be devoted to reproductive justice and freedom. You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds (https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion) in New York, Texas and Ohio I look forward to fighting with you all for the next four years and beyond.

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

She continued: “My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don't convey this truth clearly.

“I know plenty of people will never like a thing that leaves my lips, mea culpas or no, but this apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me. You mean everything to me. My life is and always will be devoted to reproductive justice and freedom.”


Read more: Irish women live-tweet their journey to the UK for an abortion


Dunham finished by saying: “You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds (https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion) in New York, Texas and Ohio.

“I look forward to fighting with you all for the next four years and beyond.”

Images: Rex Features

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