Surviving “going viral,” or, how I launched a national conversation about abortion


Is this what it feels like when you decide to “Say Yes” in life? I am exhausted. I am touched. I am amazed. I am horrified. I am in awe.

Last week I did the same thing I do every week (several times a week): I wrote a blog post. Same as I ever do. But that one post set it off. People were talking. I got invited on a local TV show (and then a clip of that show was aired a second time later in the week).

I suppose I should have seen it coming. As I sat listening to Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores’ compelling, raw testimony during an April 1 hearing on a comprehensive sex education bill (AB230), I should have paid closer attention to the gasps of horror that came from the opposing side. I should have recognized it as the epicenter of a grand shock-wave that had yet to hit. Because that was the moment when Flores, Nevada’s first Latina assemblywoman, announced publicly for the first time that she had an abortion at age 16.

“I’m going to say something I’ve never said publicly before, because — Why not? I’ve been open about everything else?” Flores tearfully said as she began to tell the story of her unplanned pregnancy. “I had six other sisters, all of them became pregnant in their teens — all of them. One was 14 years old when she got pregnant with twins. That is what I had to learn from.”

When Flores found herself pregnant at 16, she went to her father to get money to have an abortion because, she said, she saw how difficult circumstances were for her sisters, already mothers so young. Flores’ story is just another thread in an amazing story of redemption that found a former gang member turn good by getting her GED, then law degree, and who now works as a state legislator. She credits her parole officer with helping change the course of her life, already marked by a juvenile record.

Then, because of what somebody said in a public hearing, people got carried away and made threats against her. Threats against her life because they hated something she did (have an abortion). No matter what you think about abortions, I do not understand a mentality that says threatening that person with violence is the answer. Don’t you remember the lesson from the after-school-special? Violence is never the answer!

I kept thinking about that old Dixie Chicks song: How in the world can something I say/ send somebody so over the edge that they write me a letter/ saying that I better shut up and sing or my live will be over?

So I got mad. Really mad. And I took to my other blog, The Sin City Siren, and I wrote the truth. I wrote my feelings. And I breathed life into what would become a viral campaign, a flash-point for another conversation about abortion rights.

But while the anti-choice folks have made hay with headlines declaring, “I Don’t Regret Killing My Baby,”* it is disturbing that any person or persons have threatened the Nevada lawmaker with violence. As a Christian and a mother, I pray for her safety. When I tucked my toddler into bed tonight, I hugged her that much harder as I struggled to hold back tears thinking about Lucy Flores, not because we should condescend to characterizing even highly educated, powerful women as simply “somebody’s daughter,” but because Lucy is a fellow human being living with fear tonight. I have empathy for the worry she must feel.

It is this complete lack of empathy that is at the core of the opposition to women’s autonomy, and their access to legal forms of health care, or even the education that can help them establish healthy relationships, healthy sexual experiences, and healthy futures. Rather than live and let live — or even turn the other cheek, as Jesus might say — the anti-choice movement cannot see the humanity in any person not living their life as a man in a heterosexual man’s world. Because if you are anything other than a heterosexual, cisgender man you are cast as unequal, weak, or even deviant. I daresay the only humans who come close to having equality with men in their patriarchal, misogynistic, homophobic, and often blatantly racist world-view are the fetuses they fight so hard to legally classify as “persons.”

So, today, right now, I propose that we show our own personhood, so to speak. I propose that we take the #IHadAnAbortion meme of a few years ago and we publicly stand with Lucy Flores. Regardless of whether or not you have ever had an abortion, we need to stand with Flores and all the countless women she represents. Because she represents many who may be too afraid to come forward with their stories because of the same bullying, terrorist threats that Flores is confronted with right now.

I posted that in the wee hours of April 4. And by the end of the day, I had received emails and interview requests from The Huffington Post, Think Progress, and many more. People were standing with Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores for talking about having an abortion during a hearing on a comprehensive sex education bill. They were standing with her because they objected to threatening someone with harm or death for simply telling their story. People were standing with Lucy Flores because they had an abortion, too. Others stood with Lucy Flores because they applauded her bravery, to risk her political career (and, it seems, her personal safety), to champion a bill that may help others avoid the experience she had at 16.

By the end of the day, THOUSANDS of people had tweeted their support for Lucy Flores!

I can honestly say, I never expected to be the architect of something like that. I have certainly done my fair share of activism. I’ve helped the campaigns of many others over the years. But I never thought something I wrote would go viral like that.

I am deeply humbled by the support and positive messages that flooded in for Lucy. I have never met her and have not talked to her during any of this. So I can only hope that she sees how many more of us there are than those who would seek to use terrorist tactics to silence someone.

And I am filled with gratitude to all the people from all across the country who helped make #FierceFlores a trend on twitter and who shared and forwarded the posts and photos I was putting out. It made me realize how rich I am in friends and colleagues. It proved true that old adage that you reap what you sow. I like to think that over the years, I have sown a lot of good seeds — good energy that made its way back to me last week.

What a crazy week! I don’t know if I will ever again be a part of something that big. I don’t know if I managed to really make a difference. It feels like maybe the answer is yes. But how do you ever know?

My husband was ribbing me and said it’s going to be hard to go back to my normal blog hit-counts and a normal week’s work schedule. I’m not so sure. As much as I’m glad that I may have brought some comfort to Lucy Flores, I won’t miss the glare of the (indirect) spot-light. I’m much  more comfortable sitting behind the computer screen, plunking away at my keys, and doing what I do. Same as it ever was.

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