Television presenter Cathy Newman has become the latest high-profile woman to go public with her experience of having an abortion, as the possibility of the US supreme court overturning Roe v Wade sparks a defiant outpouring of testimony.
Posting on Twitter on Thursday, the Channel 4 News presenter wrote that she was sad to have had an abortion but had “never for one second regretted it”.
“Every woman – here, in America and the world over – needs to have that choice,” Newman said.
Since Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion was leaked to Politico on 2 May, setting out his belief that the landmark 1973 decision guaranteeing the right to abortion had been “egregiously wrong from the start”, women have been speaking out about their own terminations.
On Tuesday, the American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers tweeted: “I had an abortion in October of last year while I was on tour. I went to planned parenthood, where they gave me the abortion pill. It was easy. Everyone deserves that kind of access.”
In Manhattan, New York attorney general Letitia James told a crowd of protesters that for her abortion, she had “walked proudly into Planned Parenthood – and I make no apologies to anyone. To no one.” Describing herself as a woman of faith, James told the rally: “My God says that you’ve got to make the best decision for you and your life.”
Writing in the Independent, Newman said Alito’s leaked decision had brought back “one of the most difficult times of [her] life”, after she and her husband were told, more than 15 years ago, that the baby she was carrying had a severe abnormality and would be unlikely to survive.
While many women have chosen to emphasise their relief at being able to end their pregnancies, Newman described the experience as “devastating”. But, she said, although the decision was difficult, it was right: “There isn’t a day I regret it,” she writes.
More women are now speaking up. The US podcast host Michaela Okland told her 296,000 followers on Twitter that she had an abortion aged 19, but had never felt comfortable talking about it online. “People have terrifying opinions on the topic, and even now I’m scared to speak about it,” she said.
Despite the stigma, women around the world have also gone public. Under the hashtags #Myabortionstory and #ihadanabortion, Twitter users have recalled their experiences of ending a pregnancy.
“I’m hoping this catches on,” wrote one. “I was in a very abusive marriage when I found out I was pregnant. I made the difficult choice to abort. I never would have left my abuser if I had had a child. I have no regrets. It should be a legal and safe option for any woman.”
Ej Dickson, a Rolling Stone writer, posted: “I’ve never shared this on here, but fuck it: I’ve had an abortion. I also have one child, and I’m currently expecting another. I’ll be honest, I had incredibly complex feelings about both of these choices. But I never felt anything but deep gratitude that I *had* a choice.”
A student wrote that, five months into her PhD, she had an abortion, knowing she couldn’t have maintained her academic standards and given the child she already had the same opportunities.
“People rightfully give sympathy to women who choose abortion due to medical reasons,” she wrote. “That wasn’t me. I was faced with the reality of my economic class & career aspirations. If love was currency, I could have given it in excess … but that’s not the case.”
The wave of testimonies is not the first provoked by shifts in the US legal landscape. Last year, when Texas passed its near-total ban on abortion, actor Uma Thurman revealed how she terminated a pregnancy when she was a teenager. Although [it was] “the hardest decision of my life”, she wrote, “choosing not to keep that early pregnancy allowed me to grow up and become the mother I wanted and needed to be.”
In 2020, after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg left a seat on the supreme court vacant for Donald Trump’s nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks said she had an abortion in 1979.
“If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac,” she told the Guardian. “There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly. And there were a lot of drugs, I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away.”
In 2019, after the state of Georgia passed its “heartbeat bill”, banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, British actor Jameela Jamil wrote on Twitter:
“I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have made. Both for me, and for the baby I didn’t want, and wasn’t ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel.”
The 2019 Georgia law was permanently blocked the following year by a federal judge, who found it violated the US constitution. In his ruling, Steve Jones cited precedents including Roe v Wade and a later supreme court decision, Casey v Planned Parenthood. Both those rulings, according to the document leaked this week, “must be overruled”.
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