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Ashley Judd’s abortion story is incredibly important. Here’s why.

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Kayleigh Dray
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 11: Ashley Judd speaks onstage at the 10th Anniversary Women In The World Summit - Day 2 at David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on April 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

“I’m a three-time rape survivor. And one of the times I was raped, there was conception,” says the actress. 

Ashley Judd is a survivor.

The actress was one of the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. In doing so, she helped to light the fuse of the #MeToo campaign, in which people used the hashtag to reveal they had been victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

And now, in a bid to highlight the importance of protecting the right to safe and legal abortion, Judd has spoken candidly about her own abortion experience at New York’s Women in the World Summit.

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Following a new bill in the US state of Georgia that seeks to ban abortion as soon as a heartbeat can be heard, Judd has explained that this same bill could have left her inextricably linked to her rapist.

“As everyone knows, and I’m very open about it, I’m a three-time rape survivor,” said Judd, speaking on a panel hosted by Katie Couric. 

“One of the times I was raped, there was conception. And I’m very thankful I was able to access safe and legal abortion. Because the rapist, who is a Kentuckian, as am I, and I reside in Tennessee, has paternity rights in Kentucky and Tennessee. 

“I would’ve had to co-parent with my rapist.” 

Judd went on to state that, without safe abortions, women would be forced to not only give birth to their rapist’s child, but “co-parent” with their attackers, too. 

“So having safe access to abortion was personally important to me and, as I said earlier, democracy starts [and stops] with our skin. We’re not supposed to regulate what we choose to do with our insides.”

In March, Judd added her name to a letter shared by Alyssa Milano that protested the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, which the Georgia Senate recently passed.

In the letter, Milano called the heartbeat bill “the most anti-woman bill of its kind in the country”.

“Each time leaders in the film industry schedule a production, they think very carefully about where we are going to film it. Women are increasingly in these decision-making roles,” Milano explained. “Women who work in Georgia’s film industry – many of them visiting from other states – need access to safe and legal reproductive care, including their constitutional right to an abortion.”

Milano then addressed Georgia’s lawmakers directly, writing: “I urge you to think hard before making Georgia a state that is not welcoming of women.” 

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As previously reported by Stylist, the so-called ‘heartbeat bill’ bans abortion after six weeks, well before many even realise they’re pregnant.

“The Senate affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life and the rights of the innocent unborn,” Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp said of the bill in a statement. 

“I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves.”

It should come as no surprise that many have likened the bill to the restrictive laws seen in The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian tale which offers up a bleak world in which women’s ability to control their own reproduction, and particularly to access safe abortion, is non-existent. This idea is introduced gradually over time: in the book, for example, Offred sees the bodies of hanged doctors who have carried out abortions and comments that “in the time before… such things were legal.” 

She also, in chapter eight, witnesses the funeral procession of a miscarried foetus – and, towards the end of the book, notes that there are no ultrasounds or scans carried out in Gilead.

“What would be the point of knowing, anyway?” she tells us. “You can’t have them taken out; whatever it is must be carried to term.”

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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