WASHINGTON ― Benny, 26, had never really shared her abortion story with anyone before she told it to the world on Tuesday.
She was 20 back then, a college student in a physically abusive relationship. She hadn’t intended to become pregnant, and neither she nor her boyfriend felt prepared to raise a child. Plus, if she continued her pregnancy, she would “be forever linked to this other person who had done so much harm to me,” Benny told HuffPost.
Benny said that she never told anyone the reasoning behind her decision and that her parents still don’t know that she had an abortion. But in the current political climate, with Congress trying to limit reproductive rights and family planning services, she decided it was time to speak out in an effort to reduce the stigma around the procedure.
“The day after I had an abortion, my sister said, ‘I never thought you’d be one of those women,’” Benny said. “I think that ‘othering’ has always stayed with me. As much as I disagree with it, someone speaking to you in a lesser way because you’re choosing to access health care stayed with me.”
Benny joined more than 60 other women sharing their abortion stories via livestream on Tuesday, as part of the 1 in 3 Campaign’s “Stories From the Resistance” event. Other women told their tales through megaphones on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and then visited lawmakers to lobby for abortion access.
There’s a flurry of anti-abortion activity in Congress. Republicans are trying to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a health care bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and effectively eliminate abortion coverage in the individual insurance market. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is reviving his fight to ban abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and the Senate is holding a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who has a record of ruling against birth control access and Planned Parenthood funding.
“Telling our stories is an act of resistance – resistance against restrictions on access, resistance against threats from the Trump administration and resistance against the shame that’s kept us quiet for too long,” said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, the parent organization of the 1 in 3 Campaign. “Too often the political has overpowered the personal in the fight for abortion access, and now more than ever we cannot afford to remain silent and let stigma invade the conversation around a procedure that one in three women will have in her lifetime.”
Women of many different ages, races and income levels participated in Tuesday’s event. Some shared stories of having abortions before the Supreme Court legalized the procedure nationally in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
“In 1965 I had an illegal, terrifying, pre-Roe abortion in Tijuana, Mexico,” said Anne Hopkins, 71. “Now, when I see the assault on a woman’s private abortion decisions and the attempts to thwart her responsible contraceptive choices, I am beyond furious. So I lend my voice to protect our daughters.”
Benny said she now depends on Planned Parenthood for birth control and is applying to Medicaid for health insurance, so she is watching closely what Congress does to her health care options. She also works with survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, who provide a daily reminder of her own history and how glad she is not to be raising a child with her abuser.
“The current policies being introduced are so dangerous,” she said. “Without access, there actually is no choice.”