The movement, started by mom, author, and actress Busy Philipps, aims to erase the stigma of abortion in light of restrictive new state laws.

Busy Philipps Black Dress on Set of Busy Tonight Show
Credit: Jordin Althaus/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

May 17, 2019

I had been desperately trying to have a baby for years, only to find out the pregnancy I was carrying was ectopic, or located outside the uterus. Actually, it was "presumed ectopic" because my doctor couldn't find it in my uterus, tubes or anywhere else; yet my blood tested positive for pregnancy. I had a methotrexate shot to end the pregnancy, because if it kept growing it could cause internal harm and even death. Under new laws in states including Missouri, Alabama and Georgia, which ban abortions starting very early in pregnancy, might my case be investigated, even prosecuted? It's unclear, especially given that lawmakers unapologetically don't understand how women's bodies work; a proposed Ohio bill even made up a procedure in which an ectopic pregnancy could be moved to the uterus (it can't).

Although I wouldn't use the word "abortion" to describe the procedure I had, that's what it was. Abortion is such a loaded term that it strikes an immediate reaction, without allowing for the various situations in which women have them. Actress and talk-show host Busy Philipps, after opening up about her own abortion, started the hashtag #YouKnowMe to encourage women to give a voice to those who've also had the procedure. "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 this country," she said on her talk show Busy Tonight. "And I think that we all need to be talking more and sharing our stories more." The now-mom of two had previously discussed her abortion in her 2018 memoir This Will Only Hurt a Little.

Sharing stories

Of course, no woman should have to justify the reason or provide an explanation for why she had an abortion. "I'm not even going to waste my time posting the gut-wrenching details of both times I've had D&C's (once before I was ready to be a mother and once when I very much wanted to be a mother) because my body, my mother-fucking business," writer and mom Stephanie Wittels Wachs tweeted. A D&C, dilation and curettage, is the medical term for a procedure to remove uterine tissue.

But sharing stories does help to normalize what one in four women will go through, and emphasize why we need to continue to have access to safe abortions. Pregnancy itself is medically risky, especially as the U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, with a new CDC report showing racial minorities especially at risk. "Women and their doctors are in the best position to make informed decisions about what is best for them—nobody else, nobody," Phillips said on her show. "Every woman deserves compassion and care, not judgment and interference when it comes to their own bodies."

Deciding when to have a family

Talking about our experiences can also help other women facing the same difficult decisions realize they're not alone. "I was 19, in college, and supporting my alcoholic father and little brother with a shit job," a mom with the Twitter handle Mrs. Marmo wrote of her #YouKnowMe story. "I was on the pill. I was doing everything I was 'supposed' to do to pull myself from poverty. I'm now married to the father and we are raising 2 children in a great life."

"We were in love, in college and not ready for a baby," mom Caitlin Papp tweeted. "Found out it was a tubal pregnancy, so I had an abortion. My partner was so loving and kind during all of it, it brought us closer together. We now have 2 kids, we've been together for 20yrs." Papp told that doctors had told her that she'd have a hard time getting pregnant, and she was also on birth control, so the pregnancy was very unexpected. "Through many tears and much heart break, we knew that this was not the time to start a family, but we also knew that I may never get a chance like this again," she says. At an ultrasound, they found that the embryo had implanted in the wrong place. "It was such a weird moment, I didn't want to be pregnant, not yet, not like this, but I didn't know what to think when I was told that the decision was taken out of my hands," she says. "We made the appointment to get a D&C, which is the clinical way of saying abortion."

Her supportive partner helped her get through it. "We held each other, we talked about the family that we would have," she says. "He told me that our baby would wait for us to be ready, which made it all hurt less." Fast forward to the present, and the couple now have sons. "My boys are everything to me, and I am so thankful that I was able to start our family when we were ready," Papp says.

Single mom Victoria Lewis expresses similar sentiments. "17 yo, young and naive, I was not ready to raise a child," she wrote on Twitter. "I am now finishing school, and have a beautiful son." Lewis told that she felt "alone and scared" when entering the clinic to have her abortion. "I remember seeing the ultrasound and being subjected to hearing the heartbeat," she says. "I remember crying uncontrollably because of the magnitude of the decision I had to make at a young age."

Although Lewis says she felt pressure from family members to have an abortion, she also says she's a better mom today because of her experience. "When I became pregnant with my son, I knew that I was ready to become a mother," she says. "I was better prepared both mentally and financially." The abortion wasn't an easy decision, but, she says, "the most important take-away from my experience is that I learned to advocate for myself."

Like Lewis and Papp, many women who've had abortions have gone on to be wonderful mothers when they were ready to parent. Other moms have made the decision to have one in light of the children they already were already parenting. Activist and mom Cecile Richards tweeted that she knew the increased responsibility another child would bring. "I had an abortion," she tweeted. "It was the right decision for me, and it wasn't a hard one. My husband and I were working more than full time and had three kids already. I was fortunate that, at the time, accessing abortion in TX was not the nightmare it is now."

Celebrity response

High-profile celebrity moms in addition to Philipps also responded to #YouKnowMe with their experiences. "I had an abortion," soap opera actress Linsey Godfrey, who now has a daughter, tweeted. "I just simply wasn't in a place, financially or emotionally to take that on. I was and still am glad I had that choice because that's exactly what it was, it was my choice, my body."

Model Tess Holliday posted her story on Instagram. "I'm from Mississippi, living in California, married with 2 kids, & I had an abortion," she writes. "If I was still down south, I might not have been able to get the abortion I wanted & needed. My mental health couldn't handle being pregnant again & I made the best decision for ME & ultimately my family. It wasn't the 'easy thing to do,' it was excruciating on many levels, but necessary. Do I regret it or question my choice? Not at all." She also points out that the majority of the abortions in Alabama are performed on women who are already parenting other children (here's the research that backs this up).

Politician, actress, and mom Cynthia Nixon also didn't want to stay silent. "In 2010, my wife had a legal abortion after we found out her pregnancy was not viable," tweeted. "We cannot and will not go back."

Thousands of women have responded to Philipps' call to action. And whether they sought abortions because of not being ready to parent, health considerations, fetal abnormalities, rape, being in an abusive relationship, or even because none of your business, they've shown that safe and accessible reproductive health care needs to remain an inalienable right for American women.