Former Planned Parenthood ED calls for women’s silence around abortion

When Angie Jackson live tweeted her abortion she was speaking about what women have been told must remain private, secret, and yes, shameful. I support women telling their own stories without judgment or stigma. I want a culture where women can talk comfortably about their abortions, even if it is still a difficult choice for some, where women’s choices aren’t judged. Speaking openly about abortion helps to create this world.
In a piece published yesterday at Salon, former Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island Mary Ann Sorrentino argues Jackson’s choice and the procedure she underwent shouldn’t be talked about in public. Sorrentino attempts to make a generational argument, claiming pre-Roe feminists understand how bad illegal abortion was and how hard they fought for it, and know their aim was to gain a private right. The author spins the legal right to privacy argument into a condemnation of uppity women who give voice to their own abortion experiences – this private procedure shouldn’t be talked about so flagrantly.
Sorrentino’s argument has nothing to do with generational divisions. It’s an argument that women shouldn’t speak their truth in public.
Sorrentino suggests Jackson is irresponsible for not choosing sterilization. Not wanting to carry another pregnancy to term does not equal wanting or being able to have a tubal ligation. But I get the sense Sorrentino has limits on what she considers morally acceptable, and tying your tubes when you decide not to have more kids but still want to have cis hetero sex is apparently the responsible choice.
Sorrentino says Jackson caused the rest of the universe “anguish” and calls her public tweets an “abuse of reproductive rights” – as if abortion is always a severely painful decision that must be kept secret, or you’re doing it wrong. She accuses Jackson of having “bad judgment.” Sorrentino makes sure to point out Jackson has the right to speak publicly about her abortion, but it’s just not the proper thing to do.
Sorrentino’s piece reads like she’s telling Jackson to be ladylike, to be a “good girl.” There are certain things a woman just shouldn’t speak about in public. This isn’t the feminism of a previous generation – it’s an argument that the divides between public and private should be maintained, with women’s experiences kept in the private sphere. It’s an argument for silence, for stigma, and for an appropriate way of being a lady.
This goes against the approach to destigmatizing abortion that I learned from pre-Roe organizers. The Redstockings Abortion Speakout in 1969 began a traditional of women telling their abortion stories publicly to humanize the procedure, to bring it into the public sphere, and to remove shame. These women didn’t listen when they were told their stories should be kept private. Jackson used new technology to share the experience as it was happening, a new twist on an old consciousness raising technique.
Jackson’s live tweeting of her abortion actually has its roots in pre-Roe work for abortion access. Sorrentino’s argument has its roots in anti-feminist understandings of the appropriate place for women’s decisions and experiences – out of sight.
To hear Angie Jackson’s reasons for sharing her abortion experience in her own words check out this CNN interview:

Full transcript here.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation