Think of the conversations you have with close girlfriends. There aren’t many topics you don’t talk about, right?
Except maybe abortion. That’s a conversation most women still aren’t having with each other and we need to start asking ourselves why.
Why, when most women are pro-choice and one-in-three women have had abortions in Australia according to Children By Choice, are we still reluctant to discuss them?
It’s a glaring omission and one that author, speaker and activist Lindy West plans to correct.
West has spoken candidly about her own abortion experience and is also behind a brilliant movement called #ShoutYour Abortion.
And women be shouting.
Lindy West talks to Mia Freedman about #ShoutYourAbortion on Mamamia podcast No Filter!
“I’d never really written much about abortion. I’m not sure why,’ West told Mia Freedman during a recent episode of No Filter.
“So that was part of how it came about, that I was talking to a friend of mine named Amelia Bono whose wonderful – sort of a brilliant fire cracker sort of person – and we realised we had both had abortions and had never talked about it.”
The author explained that at the time she and Bono were living in Seattle which is progressive and liberal, the perfect location for a conversation about abortion to happen between friends.
And yet it took them years.
She said they realised that while they didn’t believe in the anti-abortion stigma, they were caving to it by not talking about it.
‘We were living as though we did believe in it.’
And so #ShoutYourAbortion began, first as a social media hashtag, then a website and now a powerful social justice movement.
The legalities of abortion in Australia…it’s complicated. Article continues after this video.
West explained it’s important for women to talk about their abortions because otherwise the only people talking about them are the anti-abortion activists.
“People who are not just living with stigma but danger and are getting…all of us when we are afraid to talk about our experiences or when we’re caving to the stigma are leaving the issue of abortion entirely in the hands of anti-abortion activists.
“Those are the only people who really talk about it openly and so they get to define it however they want and they way they define it is…”irresponsible sluts”, “murdering babies”.
“And the rest of us because there’s this issue of propriety, we just don’t talk about it. That enables oppression very quickly and very directly.’
West was 25 years old when she had her abortion, and said she was young, not ready to be a mum and in a relationship with someone she didn’t want to be in her life forever.
“And so I went and had an abortion and it was very simple and it was not painful and it was not traumatic and I was relieved and it was done. I mean, you don’t hear those sorts of narratives.’
"The reality is that abortion is a normal, common, necessary medical procedure," West said, adding that the fact is that many of the people who consider themselves anti-abortion advocates statistically know someone who has had them.
They just haven't told them they've had one.
"And so the fact is that all these anti-abortion people living in communities who insist they would never have an abortion and anyone who has had an abortion is a murderer, sorry, you know people who have had abortions they just haven't told you and some day you may need this life-saving sometimes literally and always figuratively the ability to steer and define your own life is what life is."
Since starting #ShoutYourAbortion, West said women have been sharing their stories, removing the shame and also education others about their choice, and that's all she wanted.
She also wants for abortion to be available to ever woman who wants to have one, so they can truly have control over their lives and their futures, and part of enabling that to happen in all communities is for women to be open and honest about their choice.
"Reproductive health is so much bigger...it's a deeply entrenched very very historically traumatic and complicated issue that deserves more attention and more respect than we give it."
Listen to the full episode of No Filter with Lindy West, hosted by Mia Freedman.
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