Congress’ focus on restricting women’s health care this past year has left abortion as an issue that’s treated more like a heated debate topic than a basic health choice. But what if you took the political angle out of the issue — and focused simply on the real women who are having abortions?
“It’s pretty simple. Abortion is medical procedure that a lot of Americans have for a variety of different reasons,” said Brianna Suslovic, a Harvard senior. “It’s not a black and white issue.”
Suslovic is one of the hosts for an upcoming event inspired by this mindset: the 1 in 3 Abortion Speakout. Created by the 1 in 3 Campaign — an advocacy program rooted in the fact that one in three U.S. women will have an abortion in their lifetime — the January 19 online event will illustrate abortion access simply through the stories of women across the country who’ve had one.
The campaign estimates that about 100 guests will speak during its 6-hour-long live-streamed event, including Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who first shared the details of her own abortion in 2014, and former Texas Sen. Wendy Davis of filibuster fame, who has spoken openly about two abortions in her past. Dozens of other women who have either had an abortion or understand why access to one is crucial also plan to participate. ThinkProgress will stream the event from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. EST.
Part of the purpose of the speakout is to inform viewers about current state and national legislation linked to abortion access — but the main focus is using storytelling to build bipartisan common ground.
“This isn’t about evaluating if abortion is right or wrong,” said Suslovic. “It’s rather fleshing out the issue as an independent experience that comes with complicated emotions.”
Suslovic, who previously hosted a smaller abortion speakout on Harvard’s campus, said her campus pro-life group told her that listening to these stories helped their members become more compassionate toward women who’ve chosen abortion. “It’s an issue of compassion, not political beliefs,” she said.
This event comes shortly after 45 different groups submitted legal briefs to Supreme Court last week, explaining why a looming case on abortion clinic regulations could greatly harm women’s health and basic rights. From a group of more than 100 female attorneys who have had abortions to an organization of physicians who have performed the procedure, the briefs also rely on the stories of real women to best defend and humanize their argument.
Julia Reticker-Flynn, director of the 1 in 3 Campaign, said that she sees the upcoming speakout as an informal “a people’s brief” to the country.
“We want to provide context to lawmakers and to the general public,” she said. “It’s important when discussing abortion to focus on the actual people, not the policy. See the real-life implications of these current or potential laws.”
The women featured in the speakout will come from all corners of the country to show how unique state policy can undermine access to a safe abortion. Reticker-Flynn said that multiple women living in Texas — home to some of the harshest restrictions to abortion access — will share their stories about navigating those laws. “A person’s right shouldn’t depend on geography,” she said.
University of Michigan student Connie Gao, another speakout host, said the online platform will hopefully play a big role in reaching those who wouldn’t normally be interested in this contentious topic.
“The fact that it’s so accessible does a lot to encourage people to tune in — from the privacy of their home and whenever they have time during the day,” said Gao, who’s been involved in past 1 and 3 Campaign projects on her campus.
“No one is pressured and no one is excluded.”