This is the opening of Tuesday night’s episode of Busy Tonight. The relevant part begins at the 39 second mark:
The clip stands on its own, obviously. You don’t need me to explain why it’s so powerful, especially because it’s not new news – Busy wrote about her decision to choose an abortion as a teenager in a raw and affecting chapter in her book, This Will Only Hurt A Little.
But Busy opened her show with it on Tuesday, in response to the Governor of Georgia signing an incredibly restrictive ‘heartbeat bill’ into law. She may also have chosen to say it in response to the news on Sunday that her show was cancelled by E!; having nothing left to lose really pulls things into focus.
She’s not the first celebrity to say she had an abortion, but she might the first to say it on live television, on a show that bears her name. I will forever be impressed with her as a result. First because generally speaking, people don’t read, so I’m willing to bet it was the first time a lot of her viewers were learning this.
But also because, as you’ll notice, she doesn’t explain or contextualize. She doesn’t say, “I was young” or “I wasn’t in a position to support a child…” or any other justification. You can find out that context, if you choose to, but her point is singular:
You Know Me.
The reason that’s so powerful, of course, is that everyone who was watching liked her already. Felt they knew her already. What she’s saying there is, “All the things you’ve liked about me all this time are still true, and, I made a choice about not becoming a parent before I was ready.” It’s powerful because she allows people to see that she’s the same exact person she was the day before – and because she instinctively knows there are millions of people who truly believe they don’t know anyone who has made that choice, or who would make that choice.
You Know Me.
I’ve struggled a lot with the public aspect of Busy’s announcement because she shouldn’t have to do this! That whole thing of “it’s between a woman and her doctor” is absolutely true (or should be) and it makes sense. Women don’t talk about their abortions because they quite literally fear for their safety and their freedom if they talk about having a common, normal, legal medical procedure, let alone if they point out that they’re happy with that decision…
But if people don’t talk about it, especially high-profile people who have platforms – if they don’t say “actually I’m someone you really value and appreciate and I also have had this experience”, it’s easy to think of abortions as being procured by ‘them’, by those people, instead of by your best friends and cousins and coworkers and people who make your world go round. If one in four women in the US is having an abortion (statistics in Canada are similar) but all the people who would make it illegal don’t know a single person who’s ever had one… that math doesn’t work, obviously. So Busy called the bluff, and stood up.
You Know Me.
She shouldn’t be the only one. Mathematically, there are hundreds of other high-profile women in all kinds of worlds, but especially in Hollywood, who have also chosen to have this common, safe, legal procedure. Of course none of them should have to talk about it, any more than they should having any possibly cancerous moles removed. But if they did – if we talked about abortion the way we talk about cancer or infertility or the way that we’re beginning to talk about mental health – then it’s possible we could stem some of the tide of this craziness; if everyone fighting this realized that it is absolutely a choice made by people they love.
Oh and while I’m up – you know what else would really help? A whole lot of men writing pieces called “I’m Glad She Made That Choice”. One in four women do not get there on their own, yet there are no confessions in autobiographies or discussions on late night television. Sure, men may think they’re ‘protecting women’s privacy’ but you don’t have to talk about specifics, dudes, just go ahead and say this is a situation that you’ve been in, and that you were happy for access to this safe, common, legal procedure.
I worry that writing this on a site like LaineyGossip.com is preaching to the choir. That most people reading will feel like of course they believe strongly in a woman’s right to choose, which is wonderful and so gratifying.
But I realize believing it is no longer enough. The idea of punishing and jailing people who have had abortions, what we used to dismiss as being a few far-right loons, is encroaching further and further into ‘normal’ discourse, to the point where otherwise reasonable adults are talking about ‘seeing both sides’ as though the side that involves punishing women for the contents of their uteruses is an actual viable possibility we should all consider thoughtfully.
So I fervently hope Busy Philipps was a call to arms. I hope how effortlessly she turned from it to the Met Gala is someday not a joke about a hard turn, but the way we all speak. I hope we have the courage to say, out loud, that we support everyone who chose a procedure that was common, safe, and legal – whether that ‘everyone’ includes ourselves, or people close to us or people close to us who have never actually disclosed their choice, but got to exercise it anyway.
I’m not trying to mandate what people do or to say anyone has to talk about something they don’t want to – I’m just saying the only way to stop the terrifying march of restrictions on women is to fight to keep your rights, and that there’s immense power in those three little words.
You Know Me.