Students and community groups amplified the real voices of women to put people before rhetoric in the conversation on abortion in the United States.
Having an abortion is never an easy decision. For many of the 1 in 3 American women who will have an abortion in their lifetime, talking about it can be even more difficult because of the stigma and shame so often associated with abortion. The 1 in 3 Campaign’s Week of Action was a big step in changing all that, and one of the campaign’s most successful efforts to date.
The 1 in 3 Campaign, a project spearheaded by Advocates for Youth, a national youth sexual health and reproductive advocacy group, uses storytelling to reinforce the importance of safe, legal affordable abortion care.
College students are at the forefront of this campaign, and the Week of Action was no exception, said Julia Reticker-Flynn, associate director of Youth Organizing for Advocates for Youth.
There’s a trend in the media of saying young people don’t care about abortion access, but they’ve shown they’re really willing to take a leadership role in this movement. We partnered with 20 campuses — and, for the first time, reached out to an even wider audience to encourage them to share their stories. We were thrilled to see more than 136 people leading conversations with the campaign during the Week of Action.
Student organizers brought together various advocacy groups on campus, creating a supportive community for women to share their personal stories about abortion access. Reticker-Flynn admits some students were nervous about starting these conversations, but once they did they discovered how powerful it was.
So often, abortion is talked about in a public, political sense, with politicians framing the issue — purposely trying to incite anger. Our campaign is an opportunity for young people to have real conversations about their experience, which helps others understand all the different kinds of women who have abortions. I had people say to me, ‘I always thought only a certain kind of person had an abortion. But now I realize there are so many reasons women have abortions. Who am I to judge?’
Well-attended events were held across the country, including one at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor — the campus’ first abortion speak-out. During the Week of Action alone, 10,000 people signed on to the campaign, pledging their support to end the stigma and shame around abortion care. So far, more than 30,000 people have taken that pledge.
Although the Week of Action is over, the work of the 1 in 3 Campaign continues, Reticker-Flynn said.
It’s important to shift the culture around abortion, to move toward one that doesn’t stigmatize women who have an abortion, which can pave the way for a lot of the policy battles we’re seeing right now. By telling stories and sharing our experiences, we have the power to reshape what’s perceived as a debate — the power to change the way we talk about abortion and access to abortion care in this country.
There are many ways to get involved. You can sign the pledge to say you’ll speak out in support of women who have had abortions and that you want to build a culture of empathy and support for access to abortion care.
You can also share your story online, anonymously if you choose. Reticker-Flynn adds that one of the most powerful ways for women who have had abortions to be heard is to share their story privately with the people they love but haven’t told.
Students interested in getting involved on campus can get more information HERE.
[Photos courtesy of the 1 in 3 Campaign. Top: 1 in 3 activists from University of Michigan Students for Choice; Bottom: Kashif Syed, Law Students for Reproductive Justice fellow at Advocates for Youth, signing the pledge wall in Washington, D.C.]