On the Nov. 6 episode of Saturday Night Live, Cecily Strong donned a clown costume to talk about the “clown abortion” she had the day before her 23rd birthday. The skit, prompted by the recent heartbeat bill passed into law in Texas, was a darkly comical way for Strong to share her own experience with abortion and speak to how important her access to it was. With every new bill aimed at threatening the constitutional right granted to women by Roe v. Wade, it seems that another actor, artist or writer is prompted to publicly open up about what access to abortion meant to her, despite the innate personal nature of the decision. It is with exceeding grace and courage that these women share their stories, but they should not have to do so in the first place.
In the skit, Strong’s costar Colin Jost says that she doesn’t have to go through with this act — namely, dress as a clown to talk about a very serious real-life experience of hers — to which she responds, “I wish I didn’t have to do this, because the abortion that I had at 23 is my own personal clown business, but that’s all some people in this country want to talk about even though it was legalized in this country in 1973.”
For plenty of women like Strong, the decision to have an abortion was likely a last resort, something that, while difficult and, in many cases, traumatic, was still what would ultimately be the right choice for her and her family. Repeated attempts to dismantle access to abortion mean constant retraumatization for many women who may just be trying to move on from that time in their lives. Talking about it cannot be easy, but when women — especially those who are successful — use their platforms to argue that they would not be where they are without their abortion, the vulnerability of the situation is invaluable.
When Busy Philipps, in a similarly public setting to Strong’s, spoke about her abortion at 15 on her show Busy Tonight, she noted the huge number of women for whom abortion was a necessary route. “While many people might think they do not know someone who has had an abortion,” Philipps stated, “you know me.” We also know Stevie Nicks, Gloria Steinham, Chelsea Handler, Whoopi Goldberg and the many more women of notoriety who have gone on the public record to talk about their abortions. While I wish that they did not have to do this in the first place, I am confident that in the face of all these threats to abortion, women sharing their stories is actively raising awareness about how integral it is that abortion is protected.
It is estimated that one in four women will have an abortion by the time she turns 45. Maybe that one is your aunt, a friend from home who calls you crying one night or even the girl you sit next to every day in class. In any case, the chances are that you too know someone for whom abortion has been the only option. This means that the laws that are passed in the halls of state houses across the country have real implications for women all over this country. Just this month, Ohio Republicans introduced House Bill 480, which would outlaw abortion at any stage of a woman’s pregnancy, only allowing exceptions when the mother’s health is in danger.
All of this is to say that being a woman in a country that constantly threatens your access to a basic form of healthcare is an inherently political act. Central to the decision made in Roe v. Wade in 1973 was the fact that what a woman chooses to do with her pregnancy should be kept between her and her doctor. When these laws aimed at policing women’s bodies are passed, however, some women rightly believe that they cannot afford to stay silent. Access to abortion must remain safe, legal and accessible, no matter how many times lawmakers must be reminded. And until that is possible, I will continue to celebrate those women who chose to speak out. Their vulnerability will, if nothing else, remind people how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.
Mary Hester ’22 is an opinions editor for the Collegian and a political science major from Bloomingdale, Ill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.