The key, Matthews says, is making room for all the emotions that can come with an abortion, like all the complicated feelings she has toward her own: Relief, loss and grief, anger, shame, guilt, joy, love, community, connection, a strengthened bond of motherhood. “The only expert on any given abortion is the person having it,” Matthews said. While abortion stories can erode stigma around them, Matthews said no one should feel they need to justify their abortion. “They don’t owe anyone a TikTok or a tweet or a testimony in court about it, and they certainly don’t owe lawmakers or authority figures evidence of ‘needing’ it.’”
Michaela Okland, the 25-year-old creator behind the viral account She Rates Dogs, took to Twitter the night the Supreme Court opinion was leaked to share her own abortion story.
“I had an abortion when I was 19,” she tweeted, “and I’ve never felt comfortable talking about it online.”
“I think the reason I felt like it was time to share it was because I’ve always been scared to,” Okland told Teen Vogue. “And it felt like maybe that was part of the problem.” Okland’s replies and direct messages were flooded with both support and hatred. In one message, a detractor calls her an idiot and tells her she has to pay for what she did. Okland responds: “I already did, it was $600.” But amid the hate, there were other messages: from people who had had abortions themselves but weren’t ready to publicly claim them.
Despite the private and public shows of support, Okland felt anxious after laying her experience bare on the internet, opening herself up to cruel, snap judgments from strangers. “I think in a lot of movements, women have had to be vulnerable about their traumas in order for people to take the issue seriously,” she said. “It’s not ideal to have to share these intimate things in order to make progress, but it’s also the only thing that’s seemed to work.”
Liz, 24, the physician’s assistant who used the TikTok trend to share her experience pronouncing a woman dead from pregnancy complications, said she’s annoyed by politicians without any healthcare training making laws regarding reproductive rights. “They’re talking about things they don’t know much about,” Liz said. “If you had the education that I’ve had… I don’t think you would feel that way [about abortion access].”
As a healthcare provider, Liz said she can’t help but think about the myriad complications that can stem from pregnancy – from heart problems to mental health issues to gestational diabetes. “It’s not just that you get pregnant and have a baby and it’s over,” Liz said. “There’s more to consider here.”
Lena puts it simply: “A lot of people who support the overturning of Roe V. Wade claim to be pro-life but they don’t really think of how having a baby would affect the life of someone who’s already living.”
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