“Hey guys!” Amelia Bonow typed into Facebook. This was September 19, the day after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, the health-care nonprofit that offers birth control and abortion services to women around the country. “Like a year ago I had an abortion on Madison Ave.,” Bonow wrote, “and I remember the experience with a nearly inexpressible level of gratitude.”
Since then, tens of thousands of women have publicly shared their own abortion experiences, punctuating posts with #ShoutYourAbortion, the now-famous hashtag that local writer Lindy West coined when tweeting about Bonow’s post. But while many cheer the project for opening up discourse around a divisive issue, others see Shout Your Abortion as a glib celebration of a gruesome act. As the reproductive-rights war rages on in the other Washington, Bonow says she’ll keep shouting from here.
Have you always been an activist?
Before this happened, I was just in graduate school getting a masters in clinical psychology while tending bar and doing guerrilla-style artist promotion stuff. I still wouldn’t call myself an activist; I think it’s unfair to people who devote their lives to social justice.
Yet you’ve changed how we talk about this.
A huge part of what’s happening with Shout Your Abortion, what makes it special, is that it’s got a 206 stamp all over it—in how it happened, the tone and the DIY nature, and the digital activism. It is identifiably a Seattle movement, and all the reasons why are also the reasons I love living here.
When did you first become aware of the deep silence surrounding abortion?
The day before I had an abortion, I got called on in class to have another student do therapy on me. This woman was like: “What do you want to talk about today?” And I said, “I’m having an abortion tomorrow.” And it was like: record scratch. A room full of people who are going to be therapists should be able to have a conversation about abortion.
The hashtag became part of the global discourse so quickly. Why?
A common emotional response to having an abortion is relief. And women have not had access to publicly say that. It’s crazy the degree to which women like myself don’t believe that having an abortion makes you a murderer or a slut, and so feel horrified at the way that culture frames this medical procedure and the way our political system is constantly trying to undermine women’s access to reproductive autonomy.
Some women have said the stories feel like an affront to their fertility issues or miscarriage experiences.
My response would be: I am sorry that your pain is amplified by an emerging discourse about women being thankful for having access to terminating a pregnancy. You’re entirely entitled to have that emotional experience, and I’m entitled to have my own around my own reproductive process. Personally, I’m uncomfortable with being silent. It’s not fair for somebody else to come along and say, “Yo, your voice is bumming me out.” Because I’m not trying to mess with yours.
Dec 8 at 7:00 PM, Chop Suey, $10