Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we’re talking to Steph Herold, who caused quite a stir earlier this week when CNN caught up with her to ask her about the #ihadanabortion tag that she created on Twitter. Steph is a reproductive justice activist who has worked in direct service abortion care and reproductive health advocacy. She founded the website IAmDrTiller.com to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Tiller and honor the stories of abortion providers. She also founded the blog AbortionGang.org as a space for young people in the reproductive justice movement. She tweets from the handle @IAmDrTiller and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
1. How did you get involved with the New York Abortion Access Fund?
When I was in college, I worked for the abortion access fund in Philadelphia, the Women’s Medical Fund. That was my introduction to the pro-choice movement, and I fell in love. After graduating, I continued volunteering for the fund so I could remain a part of the community working to make sure that women have access to save abortions. When I moved to New York a few months ago, I wanted to find a way to continue this reproductive justice work. After attending a few NYAAF events, I applied to be on the board, and luckily for me, they accepted me!
2. What inspired you to start the IAmDrTiller website?
Instead of trying to summarize that in a few words, I actually wrote an article about this for On the Issues Magazine. I wanted to create a space to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Tiller and share the experiences of abortion providers.
3. What was the motivation behind the #ihadanabortion hashtag on Twitter?
It is not, as some have suggested, politics. I could have done this a week ago or last year with the same motivations. Unfortunately, abortion carries a stigma no matter who is in power. Last week, I read this blog post where the writer compares the modern pro-choice movement to the gay rights movement in the 1970s. What strengthened the gay rights movement then, according to her, was people coming out, and the general public realizing that homosexuality is more common and prevalent (and normal!) than they ever imagined. The author of the post posed an interesting question: why don’t we do that for abortion rights? That really struck a chord with me. The anti-choice movement has tried to make abortion the sin of a few bad women. In reality, abortion is a regular part of women’s lives.
Since I have a decent sized following on Twitter (around 3,000 followers), I thought that venue would be the best way to reach as many people as possible instead of say, emailing all my contacts with this idea. There are many, many websites that allow women to tell their stories in longer form (such as ImNotSorry.net, 45 million voices, Women on Web, to name a few), but I’ve never seen this kind of campaign on Twitter. It’s easier to write a sentence or two about your abortion than it is to write a blog post. Twitter opens up this conversation to a broader audience — it’s not just for the pro-choice community like many abortion story websites. By using Twitter, this hashtag has the potential to reach a new audience, to reach women who haven’t been given a venue to share their stories.
4. How do you define feminism?
Feminism is a wake up call for both men and women that all oppressions — sexism, racism, classism, homophobia — are interconnected and that working to undo them takes constant self scrutiny and discipline. Feminism means fighting bullshit with reality, even if that means that you have to be confrontational and reveal the deeply personal.
5. How can people get involved to support the NYAAF and the important work that you do?
People can support NYAAF in many ways. All of our money goes to helping women access safe abortion in New York, and we always need donations to make this possible. It’s easy to make a donation online through our website. We have a very active group of volunteers who help us with everything from photocopying to running events. If you’re interested in that, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Volunteer” in the subject line. You can also host an event to raise money for NYAAF. This doesn’t have to be a fancy dinner party, it can be whatever you want! For more information about NYAAF, visit our website. Many states have their own abortion funds. Go to the NNAF website to find one in your state, or instructions for how to start one.
To read more about Steph’s Twitter campaign, check out this article on RH Reality Check.