One in four American women have had an abortion — including many celebrities. And as the country reacts to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many of those abortion stories are circulating online.
‘Roe v. Wade’
Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The justices sided with Mississippi in the case case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which challenged the constitutionality of a 2018 law which banned abortions after the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. And in doing so, undid 50 years of federally protected abortion access. The decision rocked the nation, naturally, as 61% of Americans support the right to abort, according to Pew research.
Following the appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett — who openly opposed Roe v. Wade — Stevie Nicks got real in an interview with The Guardian. The singer said she terminated a pregnancy in 1979. “If I had not had that abortion, I’m pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac. There’s just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked constantly. I would have had to walk away,” she said. Nicks never went on to have any children of her own. Instead, she entirely changed the landscape of music. And any real rock fan knows that was the right decision.
Nicks certainly did. “I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people’s hearts and make people so happy. And I thought, ‘You know what? That’s really important,” she said. Today, she credits continued success of her iconic band to that abortion.
In 2021, Uma Thurman took a loud stand agains Texas’ controversial heartbeat bill. In an op-ed in The Washington Post — bluntly titled “The Texas abortion law is a human rights crisis for American women” — Thurman shared her own account of having an abortion at age 15. She was impregnated by a much older man while working abroad. And though she initially wanted to keep the child, she and her family decided that terminating the pregnancy was the best choice. “They asked me about the status of my relationship — it was not viable — and warned me how difficult it would be to raise a baby as a teen on my own, she said, adding that, “My childish fantasy of motherhood was soundly corrected.”
Thurman also described the procedure itself, and the kind doctor who helped her feel more comfortable. Still, the abortion remained her “darkest secret” until the Texas legislation inspired her to speak out.
Thurman now has three children, including Maya Hawke.
The View co-host, and all-around icon, Whoopi Goldberg is always vocal about women’s rights. In 1991, she shared her own visceral and horrifying abortion experience in an essay for Angela Bonavoglia’s classic collection, Choices We Made. Goldberg wrote:
“I found out I was pregnant when I was fourteen. I didn’t get a period. I talked to nobody. I panicked. I sat in hot baths. I drank these strange concoctions girls told me about — something like Johnny Walker Red with a little bit of Clorox, alcohol, baking soda (which probably saved my stomach) and some sort of cream. You mixed it all up. I got violently ill. At that moment I was more afraid of having to explain to anybody what was wrong than of going to the park with a hanger, which is what I did.”— Whoopi Goldberg in an excerpt from Choices We Made
If anyone is going to be brutally honest about women’s rights, you can bet that it’s Gloria Steinem. On Fresh Air with Terry Gross in 2015, Steinem revealed that she had an illegal abortion at age 22. Of the messy process, she said:
“I had been doing all of the foolish things that we then did like riding horseback, throwing ourselves down stairs. I am the most cowardly person you can imagine, physically speaking, but… I was desperate. I really was desperate. I just knew that if I went home and married, which I would’ve had to do, it would be to the wrong person; it would be to a life that wasn’t mine, that wasn’t mine at all.”— Gloria Steinem on Fresh Air
Clearly, Steinem had a greater calling. Like, say, helping to galvanize the entire second-wave feminism movement.
Billie Jean King
Before she was a legend of tennis, Billie Jean King was a pregnant young woman unsure of her future. So she chose to have an abortion. She explained her thought process during a 2018 interview with Makers, saying, “The reason I had an abortion is because I was not in a good place. I was just finding out about my sexuality. I was trying to figure my life out. I was trying to get the tour started. I just did not want to bring a baby into the world.” King recognized that if she were to have a child, that would need to become her priority. Instead, King would go on to break sports records and come out as a lesbian during a historic 1981 press conference.
It’s hard to imagine what the various landscapes of TV, comedy, music, even tennis, and literal feminism, might look like had these future stars not made that ultimate choice. Not all of the abortions listed above were legal, easily accessible, or even safe. Yet with the passage of new laws, like the one in Texas, that physical danger only increases.
It was Busy Philipps who first created the #YouKnowMe campaign back in 2019: a hashtag meant to highlight the importance of abortion stories. The TV personality took to Twitter following an emotional episode of her talk show Busy Tonight, in which she opened up about having an abortion when she was only in high school.
“I had an abortion when I was 15 years old and I’m telling you this because I’m genuinely really scared for women and girls all over the country,” were her exact words before opening up a larger dialogue about reproductive rights. She even testified before Congress on the topic in 2019. Watch that footage above.
On her podcast Sorry Not Sorry, the actress Alyssa Milano shared that she had two abortions within months of one another in 1993. She was just 21 at the time. “I knew at that time, I was not equipped to be a mother, and so I chose to have an abortion,” Milano said simply. “I chose. It was my choice. And it was absolutely the right choice for me.” Milano has even called for a so-called “sex strike” for women to protest the government’s grotesque overreach on women’s bodies.
Talking about abortion is often considered a political statement. But often, it’s just women discussing something personal. Margaret Cho addressed this pro-choice phenomenon in XOJane, when she said: “I talk a lot about abortion and people get really freaked out. I’m not even making a political statement. I’m just talking about what happened! I have had them and I want to talk about them.”
The Orange is the New Black and That ’70s Show actress Laura Prepon terminated her second pregnancy after an early sonogram showed that the fetus was not developing normally. In addition to likelihood that the fetus was disabled, the pregnancy put Prepon in danger.
Although she calls the abortion “one of the worst days of my life,” Prepon shared this story on Instagram yesterday to call attention to the dangers of the Roe v. Wade repeal. “At the time – I had the choice,” she wrote, adding that “I am praying for all of us, that we can get through this challenging time and regain agency over our own bodies.”
It’s hard to imagine what the various landscapes of TV, comedy, music, sports, and even literal feminism, might look like had these future stars not made the difficult choice to abort. Not all of the abortions listed above were legal, easily accessible, or even safe. And now that the Supreme Court has revealed Roe v. Wade, those dangers will increase more than we can now know.