— -- Amelia Bonow is a 30-year-old grad student, a part-time bartender and most recently, an Internet phenomenon.
A few weeks ago, Bonow decided to go on Facebook and post about her choice to have an abortion, writing, “having an abortion made me happy in a totally unqualified way. Why shouldn’t I be happy that I wasn’t forced to become a mother? #ShoutYourAbortion”
“The fact that I had never spoken about my abortion publicly ... I sort of realized that perhaps I’ve internalized some of the stigma that ... keep women like me silent,” Bonow told ABC News' “Nightline.”
She said her motivation wasn’t political, that she shared her abortion experience with her 1,500 Facebook friends “on a whim.”
“I was like running out the door, and I needed to mop my kitchen floor,” she said. “I was like, no I’m not going to mop the floor. I’m just going to tell everyone that I had an abortion.”
Her revelation resonated. Bonow’s friend and blogger Lindy West tweeted a picture of the post and sent it out to her 60,000 Twitter followers, including the hashtag, #ShoutYourAbortion.
“Within a couple of hours there were women in and out of my social circle that were just saying ‘hey, I had an abortion too,’” Bonow said. “And I just realized I haven’t spoken about it publicly because so many people have made me feel like I should feel bad about it.”
The hashtag took off and by the end of the afternoon, a social media movement uniting generations of women had been born. Bonow said she received dozens of messages, including one from a 67-year-old grandmother who said she held her 3-and-a-half-year-old grandson for the first time without feeling guilty about an abortion she had had 20 years ago.
“The ripple effect that that had in her life to me, is like, I can’t believe that that came from one woman’s social media activity,” Bonow said, her eyes welling up.
Bonow has suddenly found herself on the front lines of the decades-old abortion rights debate, now increasingly waged at the grassroots level and on the Internet, with both sides using social media as their weapon of choice.
She has received supportive “shouts” from women of all generations as well as what she characterizes as vitriol. She wouldn’t go so far as to say she had received death threats, but said she has received message that made her feel “unsafe.”
“I am not a public figure. I am not an activist,” she said. “So I’m not used to ... having to know how to vet the validity of a threat.”
Bonow went into hiding for a few days after the Facebook post, but she’s not retreating. Fueled by her zeal to empower women and remove what she says is the stigma attached to abortion, Bonow is also partially motivated to keep the conversation going after the U.S. House of Representatives’ threat to defund Planned Parenthood following the release of undercover video purportedly catching executives selling fetal tissue.
Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, adamantly denied the claims during a recent congressional hearing. “The outrageous accusations leveled against Planned Parenthood based on heavily doctored videos are offensive and categorically untrue," she said.