Abortion stories flood social media after SCOTUS draft leak

ByJosephine J. Romero

May 5, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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On Monday night, Ashley Winter was scrolling through Twitter admiring red carpet looks from the Met Gala, she said, when she came across an alarming tweet: “This country has just gone back 50 years.’ ”

Moments later, Winter immersed herself into the bombshell Politico story that immediately sent social media users into a frenzy: The Supreme Court is poised to overturn the right to abortion established in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, according to a leaked draft opinion the news organization obtained.

“I looked at the whole story and I was just full of anger,” said Winter, a 37-year-old urologist based in Portland, Ore. “As somebody who has had an abortion, I feel very strongly like those people are telling me that I don’t deserve to live the life that I have today.”

For the past several months, Winter has been vocal on social media about the procedure she had years ago. Her first disclosure came in a Twitter thread after the passage of Texas’s restrictive abortion law, which has halted most abortions in the state since September.

The latest action on abortion legislation across the states

After reading Politico’s report, she said she felt compelled to share her story again. “I had an abortion,” she tweeted. “It was the right choice.”

Scores of other Twitter users have since joined Winter in sharing their experiences, including politicians and celebrities.

“I had an abortion when i was 19 and I’ve never felt comfortable talking about it online,” one tweet read. “We talk about destigmatizing a lot of things but we desperately need to destigmatize abortion.”

“I had a legal abortion not long after Roe v. Wade was passed,” read another. “I do not regret it because it was an accident and I was too young to be a mother.”

Antiabortion activists also took to social media to weigh in on the news, cheering the prospect that the high court could overturn Roe. Some tweeted under the hashtags #ProLife and #ProLifeGeneration, and many prominent activists made calls to “protect the unborn” and “choose life” after news of the leaked draft opinion broke.

Some shared their own stories of abortion, too, writing that the experience changed their outlook. “It just so happens the only place I found the love and support I needed was in God, and in the Christian community, perhaps because at the time no other people would even acknowledge PTSD caused by abortion,” one Twitter user wrote.

“I was almost a product of abortion as told to my by my mom,” another user wrote. “Two of my siblings I never got to meet because they were aborted. I’m sure glad my mom chose life for me but will always mourn the loss of the siblings I could have had. They are my angels in heaven.”

People have been sharing their abortion stories for thousands of years, said Renee Bracey Sherman, founder and executive director of We Testify, an abortion rights organization dedicated to increasing leadership and representation of people who have abortions.

“But over the past decade, as we’ve seen access to abortion be eroded, we’ve been getting louder and louder and sharing our abortion stories in the public sphere,” Sherman added.

For instance, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015, the #ShoutYourAbortion activism campaign began emerging on Twitter. “I actually think that what we’re seeing now is very similar to that,” said Sarah J. Jackson, an associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. “There are often these moments where there’s a political crisis that spurs people to come forward with their own stories.”

For Darian Auge, 29, Monday night was the first time they talked publicly about their abortion.

“It was the hardest decision I ever made, and it saved my life,” they wrote. “Abortion is healthcare.”

Auge hopes that these collective stories will help bring visibility to the disproportionate impact gender-marginalized groups face in seeking the procedure.

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“We are largely kept out of the conversation,” said Auge, a social worker in the Cedar Rapids area. “And it just really bothers me because we already have such a hard time accessing reproductive health care as trans people when it’s legal. So when it’s illegal, it’s even harder.”

Sherman, of WeTestify, agreed that such narratives being out in the open benefit everyone. “Those are the stories that we need to hear,” she said. “Trans and binary people have abortions. Queer people have abortions. Formerly incarcerated people and undocumented people — we all have abortions.”

When feminist author Mona Eltahawy, 54, tweeted her abortion experience on Tuesday morning, she said the responses were overwhelmingly supportive — and particularly from Black and people of color who bear the brunt of maternal health disparities.

They have long recognized the threat to abortion rights, she said: ”Many of them had already lost access to Roe v. Wade because of their ethnic, racial and class backgrounds, and depending on where in the United States they live.”

In addition to bringing visibility to various experiences, such collective action can also have political consequences, according to Christina Ferraz, founder of public relations agency Thirty6five.

“Through interpersonal communication, people hope to change public opinion on a larger scale,” they said, “because if you can change one person’s mind, when you multiply that by each story that’s available on social media, then it becomes a movement.”

Majority of Americans say Supreme Court should uphold Roe, Post-ABC poll finds

In perhaps the most prominent hashtag campaign in recent years, the start of the #MeToo movement in 2017 led to a global reckoning against sexual misconduct — resulting in a series of criminal cases, policy reform and culture shifts across various industries.

Although Jackson, the professor, said it’s too soon to know how the current abortion trend on Twitter will snowball, “what we know is that telling these stories can lead people to be more politically engaged on the issues and to put more pressure on their representatives, on the government,” she said. “It can move public opinion towards treating particular issues as more urgent.”

A top leader at Planned Parenthood left open the possibility that coordinated grass-roots mobilization could sway the Supreme Court ruling on Roe before it’s announced in the coming months, as The Washington Post’s Caroline Kitchener reports. Meanwhile, some antiabortion leaders believe the leak was part of a left-wing attempt to “bully” the high court into changing its mind.

Eltahawy, for her part, said she feels hopeful that a new movement is taking shape among people sharing their abortion stories: “I think that that is where our power lies.”





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