Open dialogue is everything in society. It spotlights issues our nation can’t come to terms with, and is necessary to move forward. But how can we really progress on certain issues like abortion when the conversation gets muddled? That’s something I pondered when I came across a video this week with Amelia Bonow, activist and co-founder of #ShoutYourAbortion.
After Congress reconsidered Planned Parenthood’s federal funding in 2015, Bonow took to Facebook to publicly share her experience of having an abortion, sparking the #ShoutYourAbortion movement almost immediately. From dozens of online posts to a recent book, #ShoutYourAbortion has now fully entered the public arena of dialogue.
Yet while its professed goal is to eliminate all stigmas around all abortions, and while we should have transparency about this topic, it’s difficult not to sense something else brewing beneath the surface.
Last week, the YouTube channel HiHo Kids published a video called “Kids Meet Someone Who’s Had an Abortion,” in which Bonow speaks openly about her abortion to a group of kids. I’m not against young people openly discussing or debating difficult topics. That kind of exposure could be good for them if handled in the right way, but that’s not what this video sets out to do.
On the surface, it’s easy to call this video propaganda, so I will. “Kids Meet Someone Who’s Had an Abortion” is shameless propaganda for the pro-abortion crowd. As Bonow talks about how she had an abortion because her partner decided not to wear a condom, the kids simply listen, ask her questions, and give her their full support.
One boy (wearing a bowtie) at least gives more thoughtful responses instead of completely agreeing with Bonow. When she asks if he thinks abortion is wrong, the boy replies, “If you’re being reckless.” Bonow’s counter-argument? “I just don’t agree.”
Cut to the next kid, who praises her. Later on, one of the girls calls the all-caps ABORTION tattoo on Bonow’s bottom lip “rad.” It doesn’t stop there. Bonow then describes her abortion as “suck[ing] the pregnancy out” and feeling “relieved” when she was no longer pregnant.
Upon first viewing, I saw this as a disturbing display of an adult’s complete abdication of personal responsibility and an even more disturbing showcase of apathy. To say nothing about how Bonow and HiHo Kids use children as tools for pro-abortion propaganda, Bonow’s language and attitude surrounding this issue are infantile.
She co-founded an entire social media movement designed explicitly to bring abortion into a more serious light in our national discourse and simultaneously compares the procedure to being at “a crappy dentist appointment.” Isn’t that what cheapens the debate? If you believe so strongly in bringing women’s stories to the forefront, why would you treat your own experience with such childishness?
It’s attitudes like this that make the dialogue about abortion so difficult to have in the first place. Say whatever you want about the pro-life side, but pro-lifers at the very least treat abortion with the significance it needs. How you lead a movement is just as important as the movement itself.
When I re-watched the video, however, it revealed in a brief moment (most likely unintentionally) the core issue with the #ShoutYourAbortion movement. About halfway through, one of the girls says Bonow’s decision is ultimately “up to [her],” to which Bonow replies, “I feel supported by that.” Now, you would think that someone who is apparently proud of having an abortion wouldn’t need the vocal support of a random child, so why does she desperately seek for it here?
#ShoutYourAbortion is not really about ending the public shaming of women who’ve had abortions. It’s not about what’s the right legislation about women’s reproductive rights. It’s not even about confronting a topic people are too afraid to confront.
It’s about women seeking validation for a choice they can’t reconcile with, and Bonow is the perfect representation of that. She retreats into detachment and immaturity because she can’t face the reality of her situation. #ShoutYourAbortion is not a spotlight for a much-needed conversation but a mask for much deeper problems.
Now, cards on the table, I don’t believe government should have a role in the cycle of reproduction, meaning I don’t believe we should criminalize women for having abortions, nor should we subsidize them. Giving the state any control over reproduction is a power we shouldn’t be willing to hand over.
In fact, I’ll also say that #ShoutYourAbortion does deserve some credit for providing a platform to women who’ve had abortions in emergency situations like rape or threats to the life of the mother. Those women should be heard first. But regardless of my own opinions, it’s disheartening how our culture continuously refuses to treat the topic of abortion with the seriousness it needs. The tragedy of #ShoutYourAbortion is that it only perpetuates that problem.
Abortion is not a tattoo to show off to your friends. It’s not a flag to wave around with pride. It’s certainly never a choice made lightly. Abortion, no matter the reason, is a tragedy, and despite what Bonow claimed in her original Facebook post, tragedies don’t make you “happy.” That’s what really deserves the spotlight.