Is There A Statute Of Limitations For Celebrities' Abortion Stories?

Photo: Gregory Pace/REX/Shutterstock.
Actress Naya Rivera has a memoir titled Sorry Not Sorry coming out September 12, and today we found out, through an advance excerpt, that Rivera had an abortion back in her Glee days. In a nutshell, Rivera says that she became pregnant, weighed her options, decided that her career was her main focus at the time, and scheduled an abortion on her day off.

Despite what anti-abortion activists would have us believe, I would venture to say that Rivera's thought process was similar to a lot of women's when they have to decide between following through with an unplanned pregnancy or sticking to the path they've charted for their lives.

There's a narrative that says abortions are always traumatic or harrowing, or that they haunt women forever. The truth is both more and less complicated than that. Speaking from personal experience: I've barely thought about my own abortion in the many years since it happened, and my singular regret is not insisting that my partner pick up half the tab. To each her own.

But Rivera's reveal has me thinking about the stories women tell about our abortions: specifically, how long a woman has to wait — and what must happen in the interim — before she is able to talk about an abortion without it being a choice that defines how she is viewed by the world.

How long until women can openly talk about our own abortions without waiting for the potential judgment of that decision to expire?

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It's unfortunate that we have a serious need for women to "open up" about their abortions in the first place. Talking about abortion — telling real, personal stories — helps to negate fallacies about what an abortion is like, and what kinds of women have them. We need those stories because we need the truth. It's the only way to keep reproductive rights from eroding, and to stop women everywhere from feeling alone. In a perfect world, we wouldn't feel compelled to shout our abortions for some greater good: We could just share them if we felt like it, or file them away in some private drawer in our own minds. It's troubling that abortion can't just be a medical procedure, known to a woman and her physician. But that's the way things are.

While we've come a long way in normalizing the conversation, that doesn't change the fact that so many women still feel the need to caveat their choice to have an abortion.

To use Rivera as an example: I imagine it did not feel "safe" for her to reveal her abortion while she was still starring in a network dramedy about musically gifted teens. It seems fair to say that admitting she had an abortion at the time might have tarnished her image, potentially made it hard for her to get hired in the future, and at the very least, put her in the midst of a headline hailstorm.

But years later, it's safe for her to bring it up. Why? Maybe because enough time has passed and she no longer gives a fuck. Maybe because she has a kid now, and she married the same man who impregnated her the first time. In other words: It's safe to talk about now, because an abortion can no longer singularly define her. She's a mother. She's a wife. Those are talismans masked as statuses.

Make no mistake: I am not knocking Rivera. Whatever the forum may be, I think adding to the discussion about abortion — especially in a personal way that is certainly going to wind up making waves — is a brave act.

But here is what I am still left wondering: What is the statute of limitations on judging women for their personal choices? How long until women can openly talk about our own abortions without waiting for the potential judgment of that decision to expire? And when will choosing abortion simply because you can be enough to evade judgment?
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