Actress Amy Brenneman speaks candidly about Abortion stigma with Shift. at Whole Woman's Health of San Antonio.
On the eve of a Supreme Court decision that will impact abortion access across the United States with Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, actress and activist Amy Brenneman joined Fatimah Gifford, Deputy Director of Shift. for a conversation about abortion access, stigma, and reproductive rights at Whole Woman's Health of San Antonio.
Fatimah Gifford (FG) - We're constantly educating folks on the misinformation, on the law, on how to connect them with the right resources to get here and pay for the procedure. People don't realize that it's not just about getting a procedure or service.
Amy Brenneman (Amy B) - The other statistic that honestly is so moving to me is that sixty percent of women are already moms, which is very meaningful because it means that they know what it takes to raise a kid - financially, emotionally, and otherwise. That's why the 2007 Supreme Court case when Kennedy was moved by the "I regret my abortion" narrative, which of course some women do, but ninety-five percent of us don't.
And then also, the shame stuff - treating women like they don't know their own mind. If shame doesn't work, then it becomes "oh you poor thing, let me help you." But, I'm not a child, I'm an actual mother. It's messed up that [anti-abortion activists] will do whatever they need to, and it's incredible because I've already thought about this decision to have an abortion...
Delma (Shift.)- There's so much misogyny behind the idea that women need extra time to make their decisions. Women always have to check in with somebody else. There's the narrative that you have to [check in] with your faith leaders or family, but a lot of times it can just be with yourself.
"We’ve gone so far, we’ve grown so much, how did we get to where abortion is back on the table again?"
FG - I can't believe we're here though. I still can't believe that [HB 2] went into effect. I still can't believe it. It's not even about Texas - it's happening nationwide and I just don't understand how. How were we able to backpedal so much. You expected [anti-abortion laws] forty years ago. We've had so much progression and we've evolved so much politically and economically. We've gone so far. We've grown so much. How did we get to where abortion is back on the table again?
Amy B - Again I have to be hopeful, let's put it all out on the table. History is not going to motivate a twenty-five year old activist. She may appreciate it but that's not going to motivate her. Millennials are very turned off to the soap box but very engaged with story telling. And to me as a story teller, that was good news. Stories can penetrate in a way politics can't. And you see it, with what the Center [for Reproductive Rights] is doing and with what Shout Your Abortion is doing. And I think we need to lean way way in to that.
FG - I agree. Story telling connects to people and their lived experiences. You may share your story and I may be like 'well, whatever.' But, Delma might share her story and I’ll be weeping. But it’s because I have personally found that commonality in connecting to her story. You could imagine if we could do that all around the country simultaneously. Because, it’s not just Texas, it’s everywhere. Everyone needs to speak out about it.
"How you are you going to protest the fact that the clinics are closing if you can’t even get to the clinic?"
Amy B - I think of the phrase from the UN, that reproductive rights are human rights. That is so big. Has that trickled in?
FG - My opinion is that the answer to that is yes and no. It has but in some communities it's not resonating. People feel that it isn't their right because their lived experiences have not taken them there. It's not just about abortion, it's also about economic injustices and it's about racial injustices and all these other intersections that either prevent me from choosing motherhood or I choose motherhood because I don't have a choice.
So your mind doesn't jump to 'rights' because you're too busy worrying about public transportation. You can't get to the clinic because there's no public transportation and you're talking about 'this is your right.'
Delma - For women of color many of times, it's not about a choice or a right, it's about survival. I know about the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, which is a women of color led reproductive justice organization. When they went down the the Rio Grande Valley they didn't go down with their picket signs raising their voices, they organized around transportation - getting bus routes to the clinics. Because how are you going to protest the fact that the clinics are closing if you can't even get to the clinic?
Amy B - It's too conceptual.
FG - Yes, it's too conceptual. And it might be too generational and I think that it's also cultural.
Amy B - For sure. What resonated with me is contextualizing the very specifics of not being able to have an abortion in Texas with a loved one next to you to the world. Bringing what's happening in Texas to the world stage. It is part of why I wanted to bring Brad with me to DC. I wanted to hear him speak! I mean, women are humans. It's about making that leap.
FG - So, does he speak?
Amy B - No. One time my parents were living in Connecticut and there was am event along with these other groups and they invited me to speak. I wanted to bring my parents and my dad said, mostly joking, that he was going to be the only man in the room. I said no no no and you know what... he almost was. And so I got up there on stage and I talked about how that's the problem. We still live in a patriarchy and we need those gatekeepers on our side.
FG - And why do [men] do that though? It's because of stigma. Because they are afraid of what their coworkers will say and what their friends are going to say and what their family is going to say. So they are silent and it just builds and builds stigma. So the anti's recognize that and they are strategic. They say wait a minute, I notice that these folks aren't speaking out and so we are going to go there.
The same place that we go to chip away at stigma, they are building on it, and that is frustrating.
Amy B - It is the silence. So I just started leaning in and getting involved and meeting organizations like Shift. and Whole Woman's Health and people like Lizz. She for me was very happy, like I found my people, which is the majority of Americans. One in three. Six in ten. These are big numbers. Maybe as a majority of a group, don't whisper gratitude to me. Come with me. Put a little skin in the game.