If Hannah Gadsby had lived in Alabama under its current abortion laws, she would be dead.

Warning: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

When Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette was released on Netflix, it moved people to laughter and tears. It made them feel both awe and despair, all in just an hour and nine minutes.

Very quickly, Nanette became the cultural phenomenon that everyone was talking about.

Before your very eyes, the show transformed from a punchline-filled comedy to a scorching critique of her own medium. By the end of the hour, your understanding of comedy – plus sexuality, misogyny and power – profoundly shifted.

Watch the trailer for Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix comedy special Nanette. Post continues below video.

Video by Netflix

We also learned much about Gadsby’s life: Her growing up in Tasmania, where homosexuality was illegal until 1997, her relationships with her mother and grandmother, and the physical and sexual assaults she had endured.

One thing Gadsby did not disclose in the Netflix special was that after her rape, she had an abortion.

But when asked about the US state of Alabama’s recently passed anti-abortion law during a Variety interview, Gadsby shared the deeply personal story.

Alabama’s law prohibits abortion after a ‘fetal heartbeat’ can be detected, which occurs before most women even know they are pregnant. The legislation allows no exemption for cases of rape or incest. Doctors who perform an abortion in Alabama could face up to 99 years in prison – a longer sentence than those convicted of rape.

Why everyone needs to watch Nanette… Post continues below audio.

“They’re getting away with it because they’ve got into the branding really well. It’s not ‘pro-life,'” Gadsby said.


“What a stupid f—ing statement! I’m ‘pro-life,’ but I had an abortion. That sits very comfortably in my head as a duality.

“Had I been in that state, under these laws, under these politics at that time in my life, I would be dead. It’s as simple as that. I was assaulted, raped, and very, very vulnerable. How was I going to raise a child? I would have ended up dead. How is that pro-life? You can’t say women can’t have abortions and then provide absolutely no infrastructure to help them.”

The erosion of abortion laws in many US states has been a major issue in recent months. Alabama is far from the only state to pass legislation restricting a women’s right to body autonomy: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota and Missouri are just some of the states that have introduced such legislation this year.

Walkley award-winning journalist Laura Murphy-Oates investigated these anti-abortion law for SBS’ Dateline. She spoke with Alabama woman Samantha Blakely, who discovered she was pregnant after being raped by her coworker at 23.

Finally, after three frantic days of searching for options, Samantha, now 25, learned that there was an abortion clinic close to her in Montgomery. Following several days off work, hours spent sitting in crowded waiting rooms, a session of mandatory counselling and a $600 lump sum, Samantha had an abortion.

If the rape and subsequent pregnancy had happened to Samantha now, she would have been forced to carry her rapist’s child.

On Dateline, Murphy-Oates discovered that it was a situation that Samantha simply would not have been able to bear.

“She says in very stark and upsetting terms that she would have rather have died than done that,” Murphy-Oates told Mamamia.

“When you look at it from that perspective, that’s another terribly tough situation that women could experience if that law was to come into effect.”

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If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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