Developing an inclusive and supportive space for those who have had one or more abortions in their lifetime isn’t easy. But, on Thursday evening, the Abortion Speak Out did just that.

The “1 in 3” Abortion Speak Out gave University students, faculty and staff the opportunity to share their personal experiences with reproductive choices. In its second year, the gender-inclusive event allowed any speaker to either share his or her story directly or have it read anonymously during the hour.

“We need a space that isn’t about shame,” said award-winning slam poet Sonya Renee as she introduced a series of performances that would transform the Michigan Union’s Pendleton Room into this venue.

Renee, founder of the “The Body Is Not An Apology” movement, began the evening by relaying reproductive justice messages through spoken word and poetry. She said the goal was to create a space of “joy and acceptance for people who will come and share this evening.”

“This is less about a show than it is about a truth-telling session, which is ritual, which is ceremony in my community,” Renee added.

To maintain respect in the room throughout the event, members of Students for Choice recited rules for the audience to follow once the event began: Only those who have had an abortion were allowed to speak, and speakers were advised to avoid making generalizations about abortion. All stories were also to be kept confidential. Social work volunteers were available after the event to speak to attendees.

One by one, people walked either to the microphone set up in front of the stage or the one at the other end of the room and facing the backs of the audience, to tell their first-person experiences.

Last year, abortion opponents protested the event on social media in the hours leading up to last year’s event. LSA senior Emma Maniere said in an interview following Thursday’s event that she was appreciative of the peaceful nature of this year’s Speak Out.

“We’re very pleased with the turnout overall of the event, and we got a good, diverse array of experience,” Maniere said. “That’s something that’s motivated our decision to host this event and has proved that abortion stories are not black and white, they’re not always shameful, they’re not always empowering; I’m glad we got to capture that.”

For the remainder of the year, Students for Choice will host events focused on spreading sexual health information. Next month the organization will host a panel on coercive sterilization and its effect on women of color. In March, the group will bring back their performance of the play “The Vagina Monologues.”

Hannah Le, founder of blog “STFU, Pro-Lifers” attended the event as well. Le said the event resonated with her personal experience with seeing a family member effectively rise above abortion stigmas and her personal views on bodily autonomy.

LSA freshman Cora Sharp said she attended the event to support those who have had abortions, as she believes she would have made the same choice had she been pregnant in similar situations.

“I want people to understand that you’re not being a selfish person just because you’re trying to choose your life, because I know I wouldn’t have been able to raise a kid,” she said.

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