This grassroots campaign, 1 in 3, uses portraits to show the human nature at the core of America's crippling abortion debates
Throughout history, the male ego has wildly attempted to dictate the bodily autonomy of others. This is seen all too commonly in debates on abortion, where the voices and rights of women and trans men or non-binary people are stifled by political jargon, misrepresentations in the media, and the political screams of men who simply don’t have the knowledge nor the right to do so.
Let’s take America as a prime example. Even after the harrowing yet essential outpouring of the #MeToo movement, and the deeply saddening end to Christine Ford’s Brett Kavanaugh trial, Kavanuagh’s confirmation means that in just two years 24 states could ban abortion, in one of the biggest regressions of women’s rights in American history. This swift yet deeply damaging move overrides the long, treacherous battle women have had to fight to have control over the legalisation of their reproductive rights. At this moment, in America now, it’s never been more important to ensure that women, trans men, and non-binary people have a strong enough platform to make themselves heard.
This idea is what underlines the powerful work of the 1 in 3 grassroots campaign, which aims to end the stigma and misrepresentation of abortion. In personal, moving accounts, 40 people have opened up to the public about their experiences with abortion in an attempt to bring much-needed humanity back to the debate. The stories run alongside intimate portraits, where the subjects are free to dictate their own representation, building on the success of past social movements who have used photography as a tool for change.
In solidarity with 1 in 3, we hear from 11 people on their personal stories with abortion in America.
“People like me who have experienced harm and trauma from society and interpersonal relationships are best equipped to make decisions for the world and themselves, especially when it comes to our bodies. I consider myself a changemaker, and my passion for advocacy comes from my personal experience having to fight for myself and my rights. These photos embody the ways I am gentle with myself and attune to my own healing and growth after my abortion. I have found ways to reclaim my power, my agency, and I feel inspired to help others do the same.”
The fabric used in these images was inspired by the Rebozo cloth (traditionally used to support pregnant people in labor and postpartum) that Gabriella uses while working as a Doula, and is symbolic of the invaluable emotional and physical support Gabriella has provided to people through abortions, miscarriages, births and deaths.
“I dealt with my abortion on my own. I’d lie in bed staring at the ceiling while my head was flooded with so many thoughts. I had to wait a long time to get an abortion. I spent endless days and sleepless nights. After my abortion, and after much time, there was a moment of relief and peace. I came to terms that I made the right decision. That moment of my shame being lifted off me was so liberating. Now I stand my ground. I’ll stand in the frontline and share my story in order to change the culture around abortion. I had an abortion.”
“I think about how my life as a night shift nurse would be vastly different if I had not had my abortions. I would be struggling to find child care at night and really would not be able to be the nurse that I am today. I worked very hard to get to where I am and I think about my journey often, especially when I put my work scrubs on. I am proud of the choices I’ve made, and that includes choosing to not have children yet.
“Both of my parents have passed away, and their spirits are a huge presence in my life, especially my mother’s. I know that they are both so proud of me and my journey. My abortion experience makes me feel connected to other individuals who have had abortions as well. This connection is why I choose to share my abortion.”
“When I was a teenager, I fell in love with a much older man. I thought we would be together forever, so when I realised I was several months pregnant, I was sure he would see it as something to bring us together. I wasn’t shocked at the suggestion of an abortion, but the way he began to treat me as a transaction hurt. He took me to a different town across the state and spent the whole drive back explaining why it was my fault we had to break things off. || Years later, I remembered the pain of that heartache but remain grateful that I was able to have the abortion. I couldn’t had had a child with that man, nor been able to be a parent. Because of access to safe medical abortion, I was able to graduate from college and live my life as a transgender non-binary person. Abortion is a transgender issue, too.”
The colour photos of Jae are a reimagining of their experience. In the black and white photo, Jae is shown outside a real crisis pregnancy centre in Boston, similar to one Jae’s mother volunteered at at the time of their pregnancy. Jae is draped in white voile to represent the stifling isolation of abortion stigma.
“I am a Christian and I had an abortion. I want fellow Christians to know that having an abortion(s) won’t separate you from the love of God. My abortion was a blessing. My abortion strengthened my faith and made clearer God's plans for my life. I am so grateful that I was able to decide what was best for my body and I continuously pray, work, and fight for the day in which every person needing reproductive health care will have unfettered access to make the best decisions for themselves.”
“The nearest Planned Parenthood was roughly three and a half hours from where I lived. The road was long. I had lots of time to process what had happened and where I was headed. I never thought I would get an abortion. Not because I am opposed to abortion (I am pro-choice) but because I always wanted to be a mom.
“On the way home from the clinic we stopped to eat in Hardin, Montana, near the Crow Indian Reservation. Indian Reservations always feel like home and even though this one was a few states away from my own I immediately felt solace. My heritage has always been important to me. My family means the world to me. My culture and my people are a source of strength.
“As I move forward and start family planning I think of my first pregnancy often. I'm nervous and excited to start a family with my husband.”
“I met my abuser when I was 16. It would be years until I was free. I experienced humiliating and dehumanising acts committed against me. As he stood less an inch from my face and yelled at me, telling me how weak I was and repeating insults, I kept my head down. At times, it felt like I was playing a game – what would I tolerate in order to be safe, to feel better... to live?
“At 20, when I found out I was pregnant, the game got even more complicated. I had no money and he did. I had no way to get to the clinic that would even provide me with an abortion and he had a car. I held on to the one choice I did have. I knew that if I even thought of continuing my pregnancy, my relationship would pull me further into a black hole. I tolerated what I had to in order to be able to get to that clinic and obtain my abortion.
“My abortion wasn't a magical key that set me free from the abusive relationship – It would take me one more year. However, my abortion was my first taste at freedom – it was the first time I held my head up and looked him right in the eye, confronting him. I chose freedom.”
“I had two abortions. Both of them occurred in a dark period in my life. I was in an abusive relationship with someone who did not want me to go to college in fear of me leaving him or cheating on him. Because of this fear, he had pushed me into isolation so that my only support system was him. I felt like I was not myself, like I was being pulled from many different directions. My mind looked the way the picture does; distorted, dark, blurry and overwhelmingly stressed. I was not ready to bring a child into this kind of environment.
“Now, I have happily overcome a lot of challenges, including dropping out of college. I am currently in a Master’s program that will help me reach my goal of getting into medical school, but most importantly, my family and I are all healthy. I no longer feel trapped in a dark, cluttered place. I finally feel like myself and I am hopeful for my future. I have been told that God can punish me for my abortions, but I know that God’s love doesn’t work that way. It was thanks to the two abortions that I realised I needed to leave, and it was God who gave me all of the strength to leave that relationship as well as overcome all my challenges.”
“I became pregnant when I was 19 in college; it was within a month or so after I had watched my grandmother Lucille have a fatal heart attack in front of me. I wondered when I became pregnant if it was her spirit coming back to me.
“I decided to have an abortion because I didn't have the supports I needed to be the parent I wanted to be. I didn't have any barriers to access but I regret my abortion and for many years I did not talk about it publicly.
“In 2011, I proudly told my abortion story for the first time publicly via Advocates for Youth’s 1 in 3 storytelling project, because I was inspired by the project to show so many faces and reasons behind abortion.
“I now lead a national abortion access organisation, knowing that I, along with so many contain multitudes. Abortion, birth and miscarriage are all a part of my life story and I am proud to talk about and advocate for support for all pregnancy options unequivocally without shame or judgement but with love and compassion.”
“When I had my abortions I was very alone. I sat alone in the dark many nights wondering about the life I wanted and needed to have to prove to myself having those abortions would be ‘worth it.’ Abortion stigma told me I needed to prove I was worthy of living the life I wanted. When I reflect now, I am grateful for the strength I had then and continue having to live. I am at peace with my decision to have had multiple abortions be a catalyst to live the life I’ve always wanted. I am strong. I am confident. I am everything I’ve ever wanted to be and have always been even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
“I tell my abortion story for a myriad of reasons. Some of the most important reasons I share my story are that there are not that many open trans people speaking about having had abortions. I am able to be visible and bring attention to the fact that people other than women have abortions. I want other trans people to be able to see themselves in the reproductive justice movement. I also feel like every time I tell my story I take a little bit of power back for myself. It's my story and I get to tell it how I want to.”