As abortion continues to roil national and state politics, abortion rights activists are hoping a new campaign will combat the stigma of the procedure.
The 1 in 3 Campaign, a project of the sexual-health group Advocates for Youth, aims to use the stories of the estimated 1 in 3 women who will have an abortion in their lifetimes to move beyond the political nature of the debate.
The stories collected by the campaign’s Week of Action, which ran from Oct. 22 through Tuesday, allow professional staff who advance a pro-abortion-rights legislative agenda “to rest on a foundation of authority and truth,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. As part of the campaign, Advocates for Youth organized 100 events in 32 states, including prominent gatherings in the District of Columbia.
“I chose abortion over suicide — twice,” local activist Kelley Robinson said into the microphone Monday night, after rising from her corner booth in the back room of Busboys and Poets in the U Street Corridor and sharing a story about two instances of rape that resulted in pregnancy. The experience was submitted by a local pastor.
“Those were the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I commemorate them each year with great sadness, but also with tremendous gratitude for having had the freedom to make those decisions for myself,” Robinson told the crowd of about 100 who gathered as part of the national campaign.
“When you see the diversity of the stories put together, you realize that a lot of the myths that you believe to be true about abortion just aren’t,” said Deb Hauser, executive director of Advocates for Youth. “It isn’t just young women or teenagers. … You hear all the time that it’s those irresponsible young people, but actually abortion is sought out by women across the generations throughout their reproductive life.”
Hauser was the first to share her story at Busboys and Poets. In 1995, after her husband left her, she found herself alone, pregnant and caring for her 6-month-old son. “To this day, I am certain that abortion was the most responsible action I could have taken, for me and for my son,” Hauser said to a small round of snaps and applause.
Other speakers, including two men, representatives of the Women’s Information Network and the National Women’s Law Center and a poet, echoed the theme printed on green, pink and silver M&Ms distributed at the door — “No Shame” and “No Stigma.”
After the scheduled speakers, the microphone was up for grabs. An American University student and one of the restaurant’s waitresses were among the five people who gave impromptu endorsements of the campaign.
Enthusiastic applause and cheers followed Hogue’s mention of a recent ruling that struck down key parts of a new Texas abortion law after a suit filed by abortion rights advocates.
“When we claim these victories as our own, that is fuel in the engine of our movement,” she said.
Many stories shared focused on state-level abortion restrictions, such as waiting periods and parental notification requirements. The 1 in 3 Campaign organizers did not plan any activism on Capitol Hill as part of the Week of Action.
In Congress, Rep. Trent Franks has been pushing to place a nationwide ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The measure has passed the House.
The Arizona Republican says when it comes to the debate around abortion, “the doors of reason and human compassion in our minds and hearts often close, and the humanity of the unborn can no longer be seen.”
He points to the grisly conditions described in the recent case against Kermit Gosnell, a doctor sentenced to life in prison after a series of botched late-term abortions, as proof that abortion needs to be restricted.
Hauser said the 1 in 3 Campaign aims to refute such arguments.
“Abortion is a very personal and intimate decision that a family needs to make and politicians have no place in it,” she said.