#YouKnowMe Is the Necessary Response to Alabama’s Abortion Ban

Last week marked a dark moment in this nation’s history of abortion legislation as the Alabama state government passed the most restrictive ban to date. It states that a woman is only permitted to get an abortion if it presents a danger to her life. However, it is deemed illegal if a woman seeks abortion at any stage of her pregnancy. This bill takes pro-life extremism to a completely new level as it also targets the doctors who perform abortions. If an abortion takes place for any reason that is not life-threatening, it is considered a crime and the doctor could go to jail for up to 99 years. To make sure there is no confusion as to what is an acceptable circumstance, the bill explicitly states that rape and incest are not good enough reasons for a woman to require an abortion. The pro-life/pro-choice battle has always been divisive, but Alabama has crossed into uncharted territory and caused an uproar in doing so. 1., 2.

Busy Philips, the host of the talk show Busy Tonight, has been candid about her own experience with abortion about a week before the passage of the Alabama law. She mentions that people are often unaware that one in four women have an abortion before the age of 45 mainly because it is not an experience people feel comfortable sharing. Nevertheless, that number is accurate and, as she says, “maybe you’re sitting there thinking ‘I don’t know a woman who would have an abortion.’ Well, you know me.” Her words resonated with many as the phrase almost immediately started trending on social media. Thousands of women started telling their own stories turning #YouKnowMe into a massive movement. As more and more women came forward, the evidence for the statistic became impossible to ignore. 3., 4.

Much like #MeToo, this new hashtag manages to create a community of support and make women feel less alone. The importance of this cannot be overstated especially as there are many in this country who aim to shame women as lawmakers feel they are entitled to impose control over women’s bodies. The stories have been so impactful because there is an element of raw vulnerability to them which has resonated with people who can empathize as well those who can sympathize. It also highlights a common misconception about abortion as women from all walks of life are coming forward. Many people associate abortion with teenagers or women who were irresponsible and made a mistake. However, as these stories show, there is a range of factors which go into the difficult decision of having an abortion.

There are several examples of women who were victims of abuse and were grateful they had the ability to make the choice which made the most sense for them. Women in Alabama no longer have that right. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding that pro-life activists embody as they ignore the psychological toll it would take on a woman to carry a child which was a product of sexual abuse. The law, which claims to protect human life, shows an utter disregard for a woman’s reproductive rights and her own health. There are also women who say that an abortion was the choice that made the most sense for them and there is no need to justify why they decided to have one. The spectrum of women depicts how variable the circumstances are in terms of undergoing an abortion. Anti-abortion supporters are either ignorant of this or simply lack the ability to acknowledge facts that contradict their own beliefs. 5.

While Alabama may be the most drastic example of anti-abortion legislation, several states have passed a series of laws which are collectively known as “fetal heartbeat bills.” These declare that abortions are illegal at the first sign of a heartbeat.  What has become abundantly clear is that supporters of these bills do not know the first think about a woman’s reproductive system. An Alabama senator made a misguided claim that there is a definite period where a woman knows she is pregnant. His argument is the basis of the fetal heartbeat notion as there is a strong belief that women immediately know when they are pregnant so this restrictive timeline of abortion is fair. However, as every woman knows, it often takes some time to decipher their symptoms. Feeling bloated, tired, or irritable are common experiences women have that they only later realize were the first signs of pregnancy. But these are not exclusive to pregnancy so by the time a woman can definitely state she is pregnant, it is past the point of an initial heartbeat detection. 6.

The blatant irony is, of course, the majority of the lawmakers are men. Men who believe they have the right to dictate what a woman can do with her body and strip her of her essential freedoms. There is absolutely no equivalent legislation which imposes a restriction on a man and his decision about his body. These men choose to impose restrictive measures founded in conservative and religious principles without considering the repercussions. Their goal is clear. They want to overturn Roe v. Wade and, with the appointment of Kavanaugh, there is a very real chance they could be successful.

Many women have often stated they felt shamed into silence. They feared people would not be understanding about why they chose what they did and they did not feel comfortable sharing their experience even with those closest to them. This demonstrates the problem of oppression in this country that needs to be addressed before things spiral out of control. Having an abortion is both a physically and emotionally taxing experience and it is unfair that women oftentimes are unsupported through everything. In many ways, #YouKnowMe was a long time coming and is an appropriate reactionary measure as it creates that system of support. It also makes it harder for people to ignore the variety of reasons behind abortion and hopefully gain a better understanding of how it was a necessary decision for these women. The fact that there was a flood of response to Phillips’s words indicates how many women wanted to talk about what they went through but did not feel as though they had the proper outlet. Fighting against ignorance is by no means easy but, as people continue to band together, there is a chance that these injustices will be corrected. They have scientific and personal knowledge on their side which will be their greatest strength in this battle. This movement is a call to action for people to open their eyes and stop treating women as pawns in their political agenda.