One in 3 American women will have an abortion in her lifetime. And yet, the issue is undeniably one of the most stigmatized, politically charged ones in America. Young college activists across the country, however, are using their individual stories to make this politicized topic a personal issue.
This week, activists on 75 college campuses created a "pop-up" sticker project, in collaboration with the 1 in 3 campaign, campaign director Julia Reticker-Flynn told Mic. The stickers, which included women's real stories of abortion in English and Spanish, were posted in high-traffic spaces on their campuses to spark personal dialogues about the role abortion plays in women's lives.
Some activists report school administrators have asked them to remove the images, Reticker-Flynn told Mic. But more often than not the campaign is reclaiming the conversation (or lack thereof) about abortion at colleges while providing community members "a more provocative way of talking about their experiences in a more authentic, real way," she said.
Stigma surrounding abortion certainly still exists on these campuses, but not necessarily because millennials identify as anti-choice, Reticker-Flynn said. In fact, nearly 40% of Americans don't have a decisive opinion about abortion. Rather, the lack of awareness about and discussion of abortion among 20-somethings is more likely due to an enduring culture of silence — and the way in which individuals and groups with polarizing opinions take advantage of this climate.
Reticker-Flynn told Mic this allows "folks who want to perpetuate negative views," like the idea that women who have had abortions are "irresponsible" or deserving of shame, she said. The campaign's narratives, however, present the view that these women are our friends and family members, not nameless stereotypes. When abortion is associated with a person, however, activists have found that young people are willing to have meaningful conversations about the topic.
Efforts like these are especially important considering how persistently the right to choose is attacked. Lawmakers passed a record-breaking 231 abortion restriction laws in the last four years, according to the Guttmacher Institute, while 28 state legislatures have introduced more than 100 anti-choice bills so far in 2015.
Luckily, activists such as those behind this campaign plan to continue to use the power of personal narrative to create "a new culture, one that is ending the stigma and shame around abortion and centering the conversation around peoples lives," Reticker-Flynn said. Hopefully, this will result not only in cultural change, but solidified political realty, she added, in which policies that "support access to abortion to continue to flourish in the future."