A Note From Martha Plimpton

A note about why A is For is so important. If you have a few minutes, I’ll thank you in advance for your time.

Today, the brilliant and funny and smart video made by Jane Lynch for A is For was released. Not surprisingly, it got more attention than the previous ones we had made. And we were very glad of that. (We’d still like to see it get around more, btw, hint hint!) But because it reached a wider audience, which we were hoping for, it also attracted the attention of a well known right wing website. This site reaches a huge audience. As soon as they posted about our campaign, almost immediately, a deluge of hateful, vile, and harassing tweets started showing up on our feeds on Twitter. Our website was also attacked, as will happen from time to time.

The tweets I personally received as a result of this post ranged from the ridiculous to the hateful. Some of them called me a baby killer. Many of them called me evil. Some said they were looking forward to my going to Hell. You know, blah blah. Most of them called me names, from the silly to the disgusting. And all of them missed the point.

I don’t want you to think this was just a matter of a few nut jobs. No. This is what women are up against. These people who tweet these disgusting things are merely the Id of a large and very vocal segment of our population. And we need to take it seriously. We need to care. And we need to speak up about it. Rather than be afraid of these awful people, I have chosen to be inspired by them. Because the last thing I want to do when someone tells me to shut up is comply.

And I know I’m not alone. Even though some days it feels like an impossibly Sisyphean struggle, I know we’re not crazy. But we need to show these people that they are outnumbered. The ignorant politicians who don’t even know how a woman’s body works, let alone why we need these essential services like abortion care, birth control, etc., are stoking the flames of ignorance in our population. And they need to be made aware that it’s not going to work. I don’t care what your politics are, when women can’t even talk about their rights without being harassed, everyone needs to stand up and be counted. This is where you, my friends, come in. Because I’m not writing this to change anyone’s minds. I know that we’re polarized and that I’m preaching to the choir here. But you know what? Sometimes the choir gets tired. So I want to rile you up.

Many of you have stepped up and supported our efforts since the beginning, and we count on each and every one of you as you continue to show your support for what we’re trying to do. It’s made everything we’ve done so far possible, and without your help, we wouldn’t be able to do any of it. But some of you haven’t been quite as vocal, or quite as ready to share our posts or updates, or quite as willing to wear on your lapels or purses or dresses, every day, the symbol of unity we are trying to make mainstream and recognizable. Just let me say this: I get it. It’s not everyone’s style to get on a bandwagon. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to wear their beliefs on the outside. And it’s early yet. You don’t see other people wearing them, how can you be sure we’re the real thing? That we’re here to stay? That we even know what we’re doing? I get it. I really understand. I’ve felt the same way about people asking me to wear something I’m not sure I identify with, that I’m not sure I can commit to in that way.

But I want to make an appeal, and suggest to anyone who might still be feeling some reticence about openly showing support for women’s health and reproductive rights by wearing the scarlet A, that you try it. That’s all. Just try it. Yes, it might start a conversation you don’t feel ready to have. Or it might not go with your outfit that day. But just give it a shot. Wear it everywhere you go for a couple weeks, and then tell me if it doesn’t somehow change the way women’s reproductive rights are perceived and talked about in your world, among your friends and co-workers, the people you meet at the store or the strangers you talk to at parties. See what happens. Because that is how things change. With people making one small effort, one minor adjustment, the ripples reach farther than we realize. And slowly but surely, everybody knows that someone they love, like, or just talked to for a minute or two, cares enough about women’s right to control their own physical lives to make it a part of their daily life even in this tiny way. Before you know it, when we’re all walking down the street or going to work, we might see someone we’ve never met who, we can see immediately, is fighting with us. That we’re part of a larger community. That we are all in this together. And that we have ways of making ourselves heard, even if we can’t make that march or volunteer at that clinic or whatever it is we don’t have the time to do because we have to live our lives, too.

It’s been a while since death from illegal abortion was commonplace in this country. And we have thousands of people and years of progress before today to thank for that. So we’ve forgotten what’s at stake when we try to suppress women’s natural need to make their own decisions. But it still happens. All you have to do is read the International section of your paper to know what’s going on for women in Egypt and Pakistan and Indonesia, for example. But it happens here, too, believe it or not. Even now, even in our modern, Western world, even in the United States of America, women without access to basic reproductive health care suffer terrible consequences from back alley abortion, misuse of prescription medications procured illegally, or as the result of terminations delayed too long because of the difficulty in obtaining decent medical care from a professional. In some states, an abortion is harder to obtain than a job. And jobs right now are pretty scarce, as we all know. But they come in handy when people are forced to have kids they can’t take care of or aren’t ready for or don’t want. (Lack of abortion and reproductive health care always disproportionately effects poor women.)

Only twelve percent (12%) of US counties have an abortion provider. You read that right. (When I tell another woman who considers herself informed that very figure, it invariably leaves her agape and amazed. See, we aren’t paying attention, sad to say.) But 1 in 3 women will have an abortion at some point in her life. Think about that. Then do the math. This isn’t about luxury. This isn’t about some rare procedure that a woman can get if she really puts her mind to it or has the money. This is something 1 in 3 women feel they must do, and will do, at any cost. So, rich women will travel. Poor women will die.

This also isn’t about someone you don’t know. Chances are, if you’re straight, you know more women who’ve had abortions than you know gay people. Think about how many LGBT people you know and love and see every day. Think about how important it is to you that they have access to equal protection under the law, that they be recognized as full and wholly vested citizens with all the rights and privileges contained in our Constitution. Now remember that one in three women in your life is considered a soulless, conscienceless criminal by a huge margin, too large a margin, of our society. And if those who believe this get their way, those same women that you cherish and love will be considered criminals under the law as well. One in three women who’ve proudly stood alongside their LGBT family and friends, who’ve worn the red ribbon for AIDS awareness and the rainbow for Equality, would go to jail (at least according to the lawmakers who say they favor such laws, two of whom are running for the highest offices in the land) for what they’ve done in secret: they had an abortion. And most of them would say they’re not ashamed of their choice, nor do they regret it. But they look to you for allegiance, just as you have looked to them. Allegiance, knowing your friends have your back, lets you know you’re not alone and makes you more willing to speak up for yourself. This is a lesson we all learned together in the 80s, and we are having to learn it again now not only in the fight for equality in spousal rights, but in the right to terminate a pregnancy without risking our own deaths.

Think about “conscience clauses,” which make it possible for an employer or health care provider to deny women abortion care or prescription birth control, or the coverage for either, if they feel it goes against their “beliefs.” What would your world be like if these laws were to apply to you as well? Well, they could. And they do already on paper in several states. How hard would it be to then deny an HIV positive person, or a person with diabetes or heart disease or any other so-called “self-induced” illness, medication on those same grounds? “You made the mistake of acting against God’s will, why should I have to pay for it?” You see, we all suffer under these laws, but so far, they have disproportionately been applied against women seeking to exercise their right to control their own bodies. There is something out of whack here. In a way we haven’t seen in generations, women’s physical rights are the testing ground for legal limits that can and could be placed on all of us, because somebody else doesn’t like the way we live, or the choices we’ve made, or who we are.

This isn’t just a media-contrived situation, designed to get us all hot and bothered. It’s not just an election year ruse. No. There has been a steady encroachment on women’s physical rights going on under our noses for the last ten years, at least. And while we’ve had our eyes closed to it, people who believe women should be forced to procreate against their will have been making small and large gains across the country, in states we don’t live in, in places we think are far, far away from us. Places like Mississippi, and South Dakota, and Alabama (to name only three) where legislation proposed on a state level becomes the model for that which often surreptitiously but significantly appears in federal bills. And we didn’t even see it coming. Well, we see it coming now. We have no excuses for closing our eyes anymore. These laws affect us, whether we live in Des Moines or Pittsburgh or Natchez or New York.

Abortion care is a necessity. It is a reality of women’s health care, just like any other medical need. And it is a right that women not only be able to obtain abortion, or reproductive health care of EVERY KIND, but that they be able to speak about it as well. That women are able to stand up for themselves without being threatened, harassed, or maligned is not only a sign of a civilized society, it is a requirement. When we cannot speak, we are displaced. When we are displaced, it is easier to ignore our right to human dignity. I have often asked myself, and we should ask each other, “Where’s MY Personhood Amendment?” And I will keep asking until my rights are as valuable and inviolable as anyone else’s.

When women do not have the ability to get the help they need in a safe, legal, judgment-free way, they don’t just suffer a little. They don’t only lose the ability to participate equally in society. They don’t only lose the ability to determine the direction and aim of their own lives. They die. They did 50 years ago, and they do today, and they will in greater numbers in the future if we fail to recognize and stop the regressive tide of anti-choice legislation in America.

Think about it. Stand with us. Consider the possibility. We could turn this thing around. We could, in fact, change the discussion. We could, in fact, change it for good. And we can do that in big and small ways. Those of us who created A is For are trying to do our part. And one of the easiest ways you can help is to wear the scarlet A, and show the world that you stand for women’s right to freedom and self-determination and equal participation. Even if your world is only the few blocks around your house, or the spaces between work and home, or the elevator ride to the lobby to get your mail because you’re afraid to leave the house and you have 40 cats, you can affect it. You can. All it takes is a little fashion statement.

18 Comments On “A Note From Martha Plimpton”

  1. I support you, and your rights.

  2. We so need to talk about this stuff openly so as women can get whst they need in terms of care and support around abortion. Whilst it stays judged and taboo, it stays under the carpet and people suffer, one way or another, more than they need to. A is For – amazing work! Thank you on behalf of all women and those who love them.

  3. My Sisters, I am standing with you. Members of my family have had to have abortions in back alleys as well as the coat hanger. It’s wrong no woman should be forced to make that kind of choice. Parenthood should be a choice. There are too many throw away kids now. It hurts me to think about it. Stay strong….. I’m with you…. Love to Jane, Martha, and all women everywhere!

  4. This is a WOMAN’s issue, not men’s, not fathers, not boyfriends, husbands,not rapists, not brothers, priests, deacons, or any other male “authority”. WE decide for ourselves! We have “dominion” over our own bodies!

  5. I think that you need to talk more about the concept of abortion being an individual right, how that links in with the Constitution of the United States so that people understand more deeply why they should support this cause. It is a difficult concept to understand, especially if you are a mother and haven’t had an abortion. All people should have the right to choose, but when you are talking about the rights of an unborn child, then it just gets so complicated. Please focus more on the argument and why it is important to support women’s rights. It is also really important to focus on other countries, such as The Nethlands, who have low abortion rates, because they have a lot more preventative care for women.

    • It’s really not difficult. I am a mother. One of my children died of a brain tumor at only 9 months old. My first child, my first pregnancy. I have worked as a counselor at a clinic. I have seen equally the women who are woefully undereducated and seem not to want to be educated, who made me angry inside, but who nevertheless during their 7th, 8th, or even 9th abortion, held my hand desperately, crying. I have seen those who were doing “everything right” and torn to pieces by their decision. I have been called “Jezebel”, “Nazi” and “witch” (the first and last not really upsetting me very much), by abortion protesters on the margins of the clinic’s property that I would be going to hell. I am so thankful that I have never been forced to have to make the choice. I am grateful beyond belief that if I did, the choice would be mine. I understand deeply the vaulue of both my children’s lives and what it means to me to have been able to choose to bear them and live with the consequences of each of their existences. This is one of the most important issues in my life as a woman. It is not a difficult concept to understand.

  6. Thank you for utilizing your celebrity to help publicize these incredibly important issues! It TERRIFIES me as a mom, as a sexual abuse SURVIVOR (I do not like being called a victim) who luckily did not get pregnant (just got PTSD, livelong bladder/kidney disease, etc), as a woman, that my daughters and granddaughters could find abortion services difficult or impossible to get if needed. Idk why a bunch of mostly upper-middle-class and up white (I am white) men feel the need to control our uteruses ….whaif I started a war on viagra or prostate screenings….if god wanted them to not have an erection or to die of totally preventable prostate or testicular cancer, who are we to intervene with medical care? And I was born out-of-wedlock to a young, naive Catholic mom in rural Oklahoma in the 70’s…not easy for her, but she had a CHOICE. We had tons of difficulty conceiving after our first child, and miscarried twice…all 3 pregnancies I carried to term were incredibly difficult, and I am blessed with an amazing husband…to have a pregnancy forced on anyone still sickens me, though. Funny how the “morals” these idiots try to push on us do not affect them a bit…and most of them quote a book they seem not to have read or know much about as though it must obviously be the law for all. Self-righteous assholes.

  7. Hint taken, and shared. Thanks for posting.

  8. As a father, a son, a husband and a teacher, I appreciate the work you’re doing more than I can express. You have my sincere admiration, my unstinting support and my heartfelt gratitude.

  9. Thank you so much for your tenacity and bravery. Thank you for acknowledging that you have an incredibly valuable tool which many of us do not have, a mic. But together, our voices combined can be the loudest mic! Solidarity sisters and brothers who support us!

  10. A is for Awesome…awesome video, thank you.

  11. Thank you so much, Martha. This is so eloquently written and puts into words everything in which I believe. I’ve always admired your acting work, but even more so I admire your activism for equality and reproductive rights. Thank you for using your public notoriety to help us combat ignorance, double standards, and legal atrocities and educate others about our cause. You’ve inspired me this past year to step up my efforts, and I will continue to do as much as I can to support and further women’s rights. Keep on preaching, sister!

    • I acci I accidentally got pregnant along with tha I was told I had 3rd cervical cervical dysplasia. what discussion w what discussion with my husband I chose to abort the pregnancy. My only other option would have been death for me and most likely my unborn child if I carried to term. I terminated the pregnancy, had the cancer removed in order to continue my life as a healthy wife & mother to my already 2 yr old daughter. In 2000 I gave birth to a son who is now 13 & intellectually gifted so much so his teachers believe he could attend M.I.T. MY Right to choose allowed me to live not die. God didn’t punish me rather he gifted me with a child who may one day change society for the better . No matter my choice was the right choice.

  12. Thank you, thank you for using your public voice to say what many of us cannot! As an active-duty member of the military, I am somewhat limited in my political activities, so again, I say, THANK YOU for expressing in a public forum what I, and my military sisters, can’t. You have no idea how much your efforts are truly appreciated!

  13. While I happen to disagree with you on this issue, Martha, I do enjoy and appreciate your intelligence. On behalf of my fellow conservatives who tweeted any vile comments, I would like to apologize. That unacceptable behavior is not indicative of all conservatives. However, they do tend to be “loud.” This is an issue that tends to fill people on both sides with rage. I know this because I have been on both sides during my lifetime. I do support your right to voice your opinions. I wanted to compliment you on your intelligent and well articulated article.

  14. Just saw you on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word” show. The video near the top of this page is dead — can you fix it?

  15. Martha, you are amazing and I totally agree with you and everyone else who is supporting this. These are OUR bodies and no one, especially a MAN should be able to tell us what we can or cannot do. We as women definitely need to stand up for our rights!!

  16. I think the biggest fallacy being propagated by those inciting the zealots is that abortion will go away if it’s no longer legal to choose for oneself. What seems rarely to be considered is that it’s currently also a choice *not* to have an abortion. The most likely outcome of giving up personal reproductive freedom is that it will become the domain of the government to decide which fathers are fit to provide sperm, which mothers are fit to provide eggs and which to carry and birth babies, which children are fit to live, and who should raise those children and how (to an even greater degree than that last is already decided by government agencies). When that happens, with current technology, decisions will more likely be based in some version of genetic ‘soundness’ (as determined by some committee’s measures) than in appearance, race, or sexual, religious, or political preferences. In other words, those who are protesting against choice today won’t be immune when the reproductive police come knockin’ on their doors and inform them their baby’s not up to par, they must abort.

    In case that seems like something that couldn’t happen in the US, it’s good for us to keep in mind that, for instance, eugenics programs practiced here long before WWII heavily influenced and informed the Nazi movement, that we considered euthanasia as a viable way of cleaning up the genetic pool but couldn’t get the general population to be keen on the use of gas chambers, and that we were the first country in the world to make a concerted effort toward forced sterilization of ‘undesirable’ populations as determined by a variety of legislative bodies. That last practice continued legally through 1981 and has continued in many US prisons through at least 2010. (The prison programs are supposed to be consensual, but most sterilizations performed through them have not been.) But most of that was before extensive genome mapping and safe, reliable abortions were available: What boons those technologies will be to those who feel strongly that people need to be culled and selectively bred toward the production of superior specimens as we do with every other specie we can get our hands on, if only we can get rid of this blasted ‘choice’ people are always goin’ on about.

    [Food for thought: As many animals as we breed toward genetic superiority, we breed far more with controlled and intentional genetic defects in the interest of scientific experimentation.]

    The issue of reproductive rights encompasses far more than legal access to safe abortions (as you make clear in your excellent article), but abortion is the easiest reproductive issue on which to sway a large and politically-active segment of the population that happens to be accustomed to proselytizing, responds strongly to emotional manipulation, and tends to be vocal and arrogant when it’s been led to believe it holds a moral high ground, especially when the battle cry is, “But what about the baaabieees?!” That segment of the population is helpful, often even necessary, in convincing a society to give up its freedoms, and is of an ilk that tends not to understand that the choices they want taken from others today will most likely be taken from them as well, as soon as their job of pushing a given law through via bully tactics on their fellow citizens is complete. We’ll see, I suppose, whether they howl just as loudly when they find that a lack of reproductive choice cuts both ways.

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