Afraid that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee could take away their abortion rights, American women are sharing their abortion stories using the hashtags #OneInFour and #ShoutYourAbortion.
On Monday (9 July), Donald Trump announced he would be nominating Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court. The news prompted widespread panic among pro-choice women and those who believe in a woman’s right to choose, because it’s possible that Kavanaugh - an ideologically conservative judge with a history of right-wing rulings - could help make abortion illegal in the US.
Kavanaugh could do this by voting to overturn or seriously weaken Roe v Wade, a landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that gave all women across the US the legal right to abortion. It’s unusual for the Supreme Court to reverse its own precedents, but not unknown: in the last two months alone, three historic rulings have been scrapped.
The space on the Supreme Court opened up in June when an elderly justice announced his retirement. If Kavanaugh’s nomination is approved - as it is likely to be - conservative justices will outnumber liberal justices on the Supreme Court by 5-4. And if those five right-wing justices vote to kill Roe, the progressives on the court will be powerless to stop them.
Kavanaugh has so far refused to say whether he agrees with the decision made in Roe. If the ruling is overturned, abortion would not automatically become illegal across the US. The decision of whether to criminalise terminations would instead be returned to individual states’ governments. But according to reproductive rights experts, 22 conservative states are likely to ban abortion instantly if Roe is overturned.
In a bid to highlight the seismic importance of the right to safe, legal reproductive healthcare, American women are now sharing their own abortion stories on Twitter, using the hashtags #ShoutYourAbortion and #OneInFour.
The hashtag #OneInFour refers to the statistic that one in four women in the US will have terminated a pregnancy by the time they’re 45. In the UK, one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, according to the NHS.
The social media campaign #ShoutYourAbortion, meanwhile, was started in 2015 by feminist activists Lindy West, Amelia Bonow and Kimberly Morrison, in response to efforts by the US House of Representatives to defund Planned Parenthood. The hashtag has been taken up again in recent weeks amid fears that Trump’s Supreme Court pick could help overturn Roe.
West, the author of Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, has said that the #ShoutYourAbortion campaign aims to dismantle the idea that having an abortion is always traumatic or shameful.
Her own abortion, West wrote in The Guardian, “was a fairly smooth experience, distressing only because my relationship was bad and I had no money. The procedure itself was a relief. Not being able to have it would have been the real trauma.”
Women in the US aren’t the only ones to share their abortion stories on social media as a way of campaigning for reproductive rights. In July 2016, a young Irish woman posted her account of travelling overseas for an abortion on Twitter. “I read endless posts online about how terrible someone like me must be, how heartless,” she wrote.
“Ignoring the needs of women like myself doesn’t make the problem go away,” she continued. “And it doesn’t make this country any safer of a place to be a woman, or a mother.”
A month later, two Irish women live-tweeted their journey from Ireland to England so that one of them could get a termination, using the hashtag #TwoWomenTravel. The Irish ban on abortion was eventually overturned in a historic referendum earlier this year.
It’s not yet clear what will happen to Roe v Wade if Trump’s pick is appointed to the Supreme Court. But what is clear, and what has always been clear, is that making abortion illegal doesn’t stop women having abortions; it just stops them having safe abortions.
We hope that Trump and the Supreme Court won’t attempt to take away the reproductive freedoms of women in the US. But if they do, they’re sure to face the fight of their life.
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