Notes on Safety

SYA believes that we will all be healthier—as individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole—when people get comfortable talking about abortion. To state the obvious, this movement is necessary because we do not live in a world where it is always easy, comfortable, normal, or safe for people to express unapologetically pro-abortion sentiments. Here are some thoughts about how to stay safe while working to build a future where talking about abortion is as normal as the procedure itself.

First things first: the last thing we want is for people to feel some sense of external pressure to talk about their abortions or participate in activism that feels unsafe to them. For some people, speaking publicly about abortion would be scary, traumatic, dangerous, or just not worth it for any number of reasons. Above all, we want you to keep yourself safe and expend your energy in a way that feels healthy to you. SYA was started by white women from middle class families in the most liberal part of the country. Our bravery is a product of privilege, and the fact that we were able to access and afford our abortions is a privilege in and of itself. We hope to weaponize this privilege in a way that makes the world kinder and more just for everyone, and we hope that those who cannot or do not wish to be visible may still find healing and solidarity in the stories and visibility of others.

If you DO decide to participate in public activism, such as wearing a t-shirt or carry a sign that has a pro-abortion message:

Practice staying oriented to the present moment. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you are wearing a t-shirt that certain people might find to be enraging, but it’s important to try to remain aware of yourself, your surroundings, and the people around you.

Context is everything! There is a big difference between wearing abortion positive t-shirt to a pro-choice rally and wearing one at a conservative event or in a red neighborhood in a red state. If you DO decide to step out in a place where people are likely to react, think about how you might deal with confrontation. This might include ignoring them or having something on deck to say in response. We prefer things that aren’t necessarily an invitation to dialogue. For example:

Anti: “abortion isn’t NORMAL!!! You’re disgusting!”

You: “one in four women has an abortion. Abortion IS normal. Bye!”

Of course, it’s really hard to know what will feel right in the moment. Sometimes just thinking about what COULD happen and how you MIGHT respond can make you feel more prepared if someone does engage you.

Most importantly, you do not owe ANYONE a conversation, justification, explanation, argument, the time of day, or even a moment of eye contact. Period. This is not a debate. The fact is, the type of people who would yell at you for wearing an abortion t-shirt are not looking for a good faith exchange of ideas. It’s totally ok just keep it moving.

If someone DOES bug you persistently, we recommend developing boundary setting strategies for ending the interaction:

Do not engage any further with the “conversation” they are trying to have. Repeat that what they are doing violates your boundaries; tell them what you want them to do; and if necessary tell them what you will do if they don’t respect your request. Some examples might be:

 I am done with this conversation. Stop talking to me.

You are harassing me. Go away.

You are making me feel unsafe. Leave me alone

 If you do not leave me alone, I will X (ask someone to intervene; make a loud scene, go get help, call the director of our program, call campus security, etc)

You have every right to treat threats seriously and use whatever resources you think are best for you to deal with a threatening person. Also, there is a long history of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) people being targeted, harassed and abused by police. Not everyone will feel safe calling campus security or police, and it is important to respect people’s decisions around involving these types of authorities. Be aware that calling the police can be dangerous and at times lethal for BIPOC bystanders, as well as boundary crossers.  

For more on boundary setting, check out Empowered Boundaries, a set of strategies created by Home Alive cofounder Cristien Storm.