We Testify: Shattering Stigma With Abortion Storytelling

I had an abortion.

Rarely have words packed a more powerful punch—yet they’re not heard often enough. Despite being one of the safest and most common medical procedures with indisputable longevity (it’s been around for thousands of years), abortion’s reputation as a politically and socially polarizing force has silenced abortion care seekers for decades.

But no longer. Thanks to We Testify, a program of the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), people are publicly sharing their abortion stories without shame, stigma or regret. It’s refreshing, it’s empowering and it’s necessary (perhaps now more than ever, given recent calls for women “to be punished” for seeking abortions.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean disclosing is easy or without obstacles. “The ability to share an abortion story often takes a lot of support and privilege because the storyteller has to be ready to take on the harassment and stigma that often comes with speaking out,”Renee Bracey Sherman, Senior Public Affairs Manager at the NNAF and We Testify program founder, told sherights. “Sometimes this leads to those with marginalized identities without the support needed to share, leaving issues like race, ethnicity, class and geography out of the conversation.”

Which is why We Testify focuses on amplifying the voices of people who don’t always get a seat at the abortion storytelling table. “Our program specifically focuses on supporting those from a spectrum of abortion experiences to share their stories; people who have called abortion funds and experienced barriers when seeking abortions, people of color, queer people, immigrants, people of all genders, parents, folks from rural communities, religious people, and people with disabilities,” Bracey Sherman explained. “We want to change the narrative of abortion stories to one of empowerment and resiliency, and highlight how our various identities and cultures impact our experiences.”

The importance of elevating these stories can’t be underemphasized; it deconstructs the overly simplistic, two-dimensional picture of abortion that often floats to the mainstream surface. (In case you’ve been living under a rock, that usually involves a caricature of a young, rash, promiscuous and regret-filled woman—or some variation thereof.)

We Testify’s storytellers completely upend these ill-informed assumptions. They are mothers, they are non binary, they are women escaping abusive relationships, they are scholars. Their identities are as diverse as their abortion stories, and this is striking chords within the reproductive rights community—which admittedly doesn’t have the best track record with regards to inclusivity.

“I think folks have been really receptive to hearing a diverse range of abortion stories. And the thing is, the stories from We Testify are about people, not just abortions. It’s refreshing to see stories that make space for complex, whole people who, yeah, have had one or more abortions too,” Anise Simon, one of We Testify’s storytellers and an abortion funder, told us.

Indeed, this people-centric approach helps humanize abortion care and those who receive it. And the benefits of doing so extend beyond the personal. Earlier this year, more than one hundred female attorneys shared their abortion stories with the Supreme Court. In the spring, more women followed suit, helping to paint an intimate portrait of abortion as the Court weighed its decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. HellerstedtNNAF likewise submitted its own brief with stories of people who called abortion funds and were impacted by the barriers of HB2. The Court sided with Whole Women’s Health—a massive pro-choice victory.

But whatever a person’s motivation for sharing an abortion story—whether it’s to smash stigma within one’s own inner circles or to affect large-scale political change—the impact is tangible, and it matters.

To that end, I’ll add my voice: I, too, had an abortion. And I don’t regret it.

Want to submit your own abortion story to We Testify? You can do so here.

 

 

 

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Categories: Action, Health

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  1. We Testify: Shattering Stigma With Abortion Storytelling — – MBUTA MGONGO WAZI

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