Thousands of women share #YouKnowMe abortion stories
Busy Philipps joined by Milla Jovovich and Lady Gaga in opposing American bans
Busy Philipps: ‘One in four women will have an abortion before age 45.’ Photograph: Tawni Bannister/NYT
As Alabama enacted a law this week that would ban almost all abortions in the American state, the actor Busy Philipps felt compelled to take action. “Women deserve compassion and understanding in their personal health choices,” the 39-year-old says. “This is something a lot of people experience and go through in their lives, and it’s a healthcare decision like many healthcare decisions.”
Just a week earlier she had opened up about her own abortion, when she was 15, on her late-night show, Busy Tonight, in a plea to protect women’s reproductive rights. Philipps, who is known for her roles on the TV shows Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks, wrote about the abortion in her memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little.
“The statistic is one in four women will have an abortion before age 45,” she said last Tuesday on the show, referring to a study that was published in the American Journal of Public Health. “That statistic sometimes surprises people, and maybe you’re sitting there thinking, I don’t know a woman who would have an abortion. Well, you know me.”
She is one of a series of well-known women, including the Friends star Courteney Cox and the Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, to oppose the new laws. Yesterday Lady Gaga tweeted: “It is an outrage to ban abortion in Alabama, period, and all the more heinous that it excludes those who have been raped or are experiencing incest, non-consensual or not. So there’s a higher penalty for doctors who perform these operations than for most rapists? This is a travesty, and I pray for all these women and young girls who suffer at the hands of this system.”
On Tuesday the actor Milla Jovovich revealed in an Instagram post that she had also had an abortion. The Resident Evil star wrote that she had an “emergency abortion” in 2017, when she was 4½ months pregnant, while filming on location in eastern Europe. “I went into pre term labor and [was] told that I had to be awake for the whole procedure,” she wrote. “It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever gone through. I still have nightmares about it. I was alone and helpless.”
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I don’t like to get political and I try to only do it if a really have to and this is one of those times. If someone doesn’t want to continue reading, you have been warned. Our rights as women to obtain safe abortions by experienced doctors are again at stake. Last Tuesday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a draconian bill into law that outlaws all abortions after six weeks — before most women even realize they’re pregnant — including in cases of RAPE OR INCEST. This makes Georgia the sixth state to pass such a restrictive six-week abortion ban, joining Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa, and North Dakota. These laws haven’t been passed yet, but lawmakers in these states are trying. Abortion is hard enough for women on an emotional level without having to go through it in potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions. I myself went through an emergency abortion 2 years ago. I was 4 1/2 months pregnant and shooting on location in Eastern Europe. I went into pre term labor and told that I had to be awake for the whole procedure. It was one of the most horrific experiences I have ever gone through. I still have nightmares about it. I was alone and helpless. When I think about the fact that women might have to face abortions in even worse conditions than I did because of new laws, my stomach turns. I spiraled into one of the worst depressions of my life and had to work extremely hard to find my way out. I took time off of my career. I isolated myself for months and had to keep a strong face for my two amazing kids. I started gardening, eating healthier and going to the gym everyday because I didn’t want to jump into taking anti depressants unless I had tried every other alternative. Thank God I was able to find my way out of that personal hell without turning to medication, but the memory of what I went through and what I lost will be with me till the day I die. Abortion is a nightmare at its best. No woman wants to go through that. But we have to fight to make sure our rights are preserved to obtain a safe one if we need to. I never wanted to speak about this experience. But I cannot remain silent when so much is at stake. #prochoice #prochoicegeneration
Alabama was the seventh state to pass a Bill this year that narrows the window for abortion, and Missouri is on track to join them. As they rush to restrict terminations, and other states move to protect them, thousands of women are sharing their own abortion stories online, many using the hashtag #YouKnowMe. In a telephone interview, Philipps talks about her motivations for speaking out, the response to her story and what comes next.
What led you to talk about abortion on your show?
Part of what I think was so successful in getting people motivated, and men on board with the #MeToo movement, was hearing from women about their personal stories. Abortion has been, historically speaking, a very taboo subject that women have a hard time talking about publicly, because it’s such a personal decision.
The anti-abortion people in the United States are so vocal, and for all of those reasons I think women have remained silent. And I felt, like, well, maybe there’s actually value in sharing. We need to be as loud as they are, but with the truth. That’s the only thing we have. For me it includes people standing up and saying, “I am that one in four.” It doesn’t matter why, when, or how old you were. “You know me, you like me, and I went through this.” I think there’s something super empowering about being able to shift the narrative and being able to have a ton of people say, “I’ve also gone through this thing.” Before I spoke on my own show I had read a story about an 11-year-old rape victim in Ohio who was going to be forced to carry a pregnancy. I have a daughter who is the same age. I became physically ill thinking about the horror of that for that child. For those men in charge to decide that that collection of cells has more value than that child defies all logic.
How did the comment you made on your show lead to your tweet on Tuesday calling for women to share their stories with the hashtag #YouKnowMe?
I don’t understand hashtags that much. I never hashtag. Tina Fey, who doesn’t have her own social-media accounts and who’s my executive producer, reached out to me. She said, “I think you hit on something, which is ‘you know me.’ It makes it very personal. I think you should think about starting that hashtag.”
It was the day after I had done the show. I felt overwhelmed already by the responses to my show. I had to think about it. Then, last night, I went to dinner with my girlfriends, and we were on our phones reading about the Alabama law. I told them about the hashtag and they said, “Just do it right now. This is the right time to do it.”
How do you feel about some of the negative reactions people have had to the comments you made on your show and the hashtag?
I had some of the trolls hit me up, and a lot of people were, like, “How could you be proud of this thing you have done?” I never said I was proud of it. It’s a thing I experienced as a woman that many women in this country and around the world have experienced. I refuse to live in shame, and I refuse to hold on to something that I have no shame about.
I don’t know one woman who’s had an abortion who has been, like, “I can’t wait, I’m so excited about this.” I can’t control that someone else feels that way about this. I believe they’re wrong, and, to be honest with you, it really has no effect on me at all. Not even for a second. In terms of followers on Instagram, if that’s something you believe, and you believe a woman shouldn’t decide with her doctor and herself what’s right for her own body, you can go ahead and unfollow me. I don’t need you.
How can men be allies?
Men can be louder. I think they can be participatory and stand shoulder to shoulder with women, opposing these Bills. My husband and I talked about it before I talked about it on my show. We talked about the possible repercussions. He and I both decided that anything negative about me that could come my way would be completely minuscule in comparison to the possible good that it could do for other people.
What’s your outlook on the future when it comes to reproductive rights?
I do want everyone, myself included, to be hopeful that women will be able to have true equality in our society. I am hopeful of that, for our daughters. I am hopeful that we won’t slide backwards, and that what we’re seeing right now is the last dying grasp of old white men who are trying to uphold the patriarchy and hold on to their power in any way they can. I hope this is a real turning point, and from here on out, things will get better. It might get worse before it gets better, but it’s pretty bad right now. And I’m speaking from a place with so much privilege. – New York Times, PA