Written by Laiah Idelson
At YTH, we believe all people, specifically young women, are capable of making their own choices about their health care and their future plans, especially around the difficult choice of whether to have an abortion. Polls show the majority of Americans agree with this sentiment and one in three American women will receive an abortion in her lifetime. However, this silent majority has not been effective in convincing policymakers to support policies that provide women with reproductive choices. Perhaps lawmakers refuse to support pro-choice policies because they haven’t heard the powerful stories of women who made the choice to have an abortion from people whom they respect, admire, or love.
Over the last few years, multiple friends have confided in me about their decisions to terminate pregnancies. Some of these women were married and chose to terminate non-viable pregnancies. Others, married and unmarried, chose to terminate pregnancies for which they were not ready. They all shared feelings of sadness, but also gratitude that safe and legal services were available to them to support this personal and private decision.
My friends were fortunate to receive safe and friendly services in the US, but many American women are not so fortunate. While Roe v. Wade protects the legality and access of abortion for American women, it’s up to the states to regulate the law. As a result, many states have decided to do everything they can to make abortion inaccessible for women. For example, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 18 states enacted restrictions to abortion in 2016 alone. Today, 93 percent of women living in the American South live in states labeled “hostile” or “extremely hostile” to abortion.
As pro-choice advocates and organizations, we need to continue to create spaces where women’s stories can be shared and amplified. The TV show, Will and Grace, is widely credited for changing the perception of how gay people are viewed in the US by cultivating empathy and understanding among average Americans. In one of the most rapid cultural shifts ever documented, Americans went from enacting homophobic policies to ensuring the right to marry for all. Even though Will and Jack an’t real, Americans felt they could relate to, respect, and identify with them, prompting attitude changes towards gay people, even among those Americans who might never have met someone who is gay in person. When I think back to the TV shows and movies of my teenage years, like Friends, Sex and the City, and Juno, I remember no positive portrayals of women choosing to terminate a pregnancy. While 2016 showed definite improvements, there is still a long way to go. I am eager for a Pro-Choice Will or Jack to lodge its way into America’s heart to destigmatize the choice of an abortion.
Until Pro-Choice Will comes across the silver screen, and especially in Donald Trump’s America, it is up to youth, as well as as people who amplify the voices of youth, to both tell these stories and to listen.
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