For more coverage of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health, check out our special report.
In 2014, Amelia Bonow had an abortion. A year later, when Planned Parenthood was attacked in Congress, Bonow shared her story on Facebook. Her friend, writer Lindy West, captured the post and shared it on her own Facebook with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion.
This set off a chain of events that would spawn (pun very intentionally) an organization by that name, as well as a nationwide movement to radically reframe the conversation about abortion toward unapologetic, uncensored acceptance. of abortion as a social good and as health care. .
As the lawyers prepare for their closing arguments this morning before the Supreme Court of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Shout Your Abortion will once again work to change the discourse on abortion. Their priority today? Abortion pills.
Roe has collapsed and Texas is in chaos.
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Rewire Press Group spoke to Bonow ahead of what promises to be a day of energetic activism from SYA, with banners and billboards, vending machines and art installations all aimed at raising awareness of the accessibility and safety of abortion pills. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Bonow’s message? To hell with the Supreme Court, we do it anyway.
Rewire Press Group: Can you tell us how this action started?
Amelie Bonow: SYA has watched the abortion pill conversation move forward over the past two years. And then during the pandemic, as Republicans lined up on the legal front, things settled down very quickly in terms of service delivery. The pills have become a new reality of abortion care – clearly something that has the power to make early abortion more accessible than it has ever been, even in the face of the anti-choice legislation we are on. the point to see in the years to come.
So a major factor in bringing about this action is that relatively few people know that abortion pills are now widely available by mail in all 50 states, and it needs to become common knowledge as soon as possible.
The Court is about to take away a 50-year-old constitutional right, in a striking example of minority government, both in terms of the composition of the courts and in terms of the fact that 77% of the population supports deer. But looking at social media, looking at the signs in people’s yards, just looking at the lack of people on the streets, it feels like we’re descending into hell, and people outside of our movement apparently don’t have not much to say about it.
And I think the silence is a big part of why politicians on both sides don’t seem to feel political pressure around abortion. Given what the polls are telling us, people should come close to passing an abortion ban in their state because it could potentially end their political careers. Politicians don’t feel that pressure, in part because the pro-choice beliefs of so many people are low-key and private. And we need to enter a new era, where people understand that being quietly pro-choice is not enough, and that silence is part of the reason we live in a country where the legislation on this issue doesn’t match up. popularity opinion or needs or values. I think we have to push people into this new era.
It’s time to lift hell completely. It’s time to shut down this country. It’s a fucking blow. All of us who work in reproduction are so used to people saying, “I’m not comfortable with you saying abortion or the way you talk about it. It’s a strange thing to be uncomfortable right now. I really wish more people were outwardly uncomfortable with the fact that abortion is fast becoming a class privilege, you know?
Why did you choose abortion pills as the rallying cry behind this action?
A B: Abortion pills are widely available and have the power to significantly mitigate the damage caused by anti-choice legislation. And also, we have no faith in this Court to protect our 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion, but beyond that, we completely reject the idea that they ever had the moral authority to tell us that we are not allowed to terminate our pregnancies. .
Fuck this Court, we do it anyway. And yes, we will continue to fight tooth and nail, all the legal fights, because we know of course that criminalization will target the most marginalized among us. And yes, we will continue to fight to keep all abortion clinics open for as long as possible, especially the independent clinics that provide the vast majority of care later in pregnancy. The pills don’t and won’t work for everyone, and we still have to fight to keep clinics open, as many clinics as long as possible, and also build clinic capacity in neighboring states like Texas or wherever where the next ban will come into effect. .
For many decades, we have held up signs about protecting our rights. And I’m really interested in advancing the idea that our right to bodily autonomy is inexorable. I am not asking permission from any court. I want people to think, “Oh, my state is passing an abortion ban? Damn, I can still get an abortion, and there are networks, organizations, and resources that will help me do that and help keep me safe during the process.
We need to start talking about how to have illegal abortions that are medically safe because a lot of people are going to need them. And I think we need to consciously separate those things at this point: safety and legality. Especially now that pills have hit the scene and are safer than Viagra and Tylenol.
And when you think about it, what could be more dangerous than an unwanted pregnancy?
There is a legal risk with the pills, especially for marginalized people. Talk about it a bit.
A B: The demographic that faces disproportionate legal risk for acquiring or using abortion pills is the exact same demographic that needs to know they exist and how to minimize and mitigate any legal risk, so that they can acquire and use these very safe drugs without facing unfair consequences. The fact that we know more and more states are going to start criminalizing the pills is all the more reason to take this conversation forward now and help point people to organizations like If/When/How and resources like the Repro Legal Helpline so people know what their options are and can navigate this risk assessment on their own and know that there are resources to help them through the process. We know this shit is less safe the more people feel alone.
There are also resources such as the Miscarriage and Abortion Helpline, which are staffed by anonymous abortion-friendly medical professionals who will take the call of anyone experiencing pregnancy loss. , will offer medical advice and support them through the process, if anything happens that feels weird or seems scary.
I think we need to recognize the fact that very many people are going to have illegal abortions, and also that those abortions can still be medically safe and that there are ways to mitigate the legal risks. And let’s not talk about legality and safety all at once in a way that would deter people from finding safer paths in a legal minefield. I also think that raising public awareness of the pills can help provide coverage for more marginalized populations to access them because it makes them more normative.
What can we expect from SYA today?
A B: Lots of people on the streets shouting about abortion pills from the rooftops in all sorts of different ways, all over the country. We made posters, road signs, stencils, these gigantic road signs that are the size of a couch. We’ve printed and distributed thousands of these materials to partners and activists across the country, and we’ve also created a toolkit where people can print these resources themselves.
We have a giant digital billboard truck that says “abortion pills” that cruises Hollywood for eight hours and a plane with a giant banner that says “share information about abortion pills” flying over Arizona. We also printed 10,000 of these little boxes that say “abortion pills”; inside this box is a card that links to our pop-up website that we created i.e. shareabortionpill.info.
And we’re distributing those boxes all over the country in different ways: there’s an artist in Los Angeles building a Supreme Court-shaped installation in a gallery, there’s four vending machines full of pill boxes in Arizona, and a claw machine full of boxes in a game room in Brooklyn. And dozens of organizers all over the country distribute them in pharmacies, cafes and all kinds of places like a small guerrilla. And then we also bring a thousand of these boxes to Court with us on December 1, where a group of us are meeting.
And here’s the best part: four of us are going to stand with a banner that says, “We’re on abortion pills forever” and we’re going to take mifepristone in court.
We all got our abortion pills legally through Aid Access, which now has an advanced offer, meaning you can get these pills whether you’re pregnant or not, just to have them at home. This action is not just about spreading information about this potentially life-saving and totally urgent public health bulletin that is the existence of abortion pills, but it is about us standing in this court and taking these pills and simply beaming, “Fuck off, this is completely out of your hands, you’ll never stop us,” energy. And also, “Fuck you, Stephen Breyer, retired bitch. You dusty old bitch.
This country is unlivable without abortion. And if you care about economic justice or racial justice, or just basic human rights and who is allowed to exercise those rights, you should shut down this country right now. I’m so sick of seeing people talking about all the other political issues on Twitter or elsewhere and never saying a word about abortion. If you don’t say anything, you really are part of the problem.
I just want to rip this issue out of this little compartmentalized militant feminist corner of “women’s stuff” and lay it in America’s lap like a bleeding head and simply say: it’s a fucking nightmare. Welcome to her. Have fun with us.