Mark Ruffalo’s mother got an abortion before it was safe and legal in the United States, and he doesn’t want any other women to have to do the same thing. This was the main point of an open letter the actor wrote that was shared at an abortion rights rally in Mississippi last week. His letter was published in full last Saturday on Stop Patriarchy.
“What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind. My mother’s illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives.”
Ruffalo’s statement comes at a time when there is unprecedented opposition to abortion rights in the United States. His letter was read last weekend outside the only remaining legal abortion clinic in Mississippi, which abortion opponents are attempting to shut down. It was included as part of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, a nationwide effort by Stop Patriarchy to physically bring the voice of the pro-choice movement to areas of the country where abortion laws face the most opposition. Their stated goal is to:
…protest and confront the anti-abortion woman-haters, erect visual displays that tell the truth about abortion and birth control, collect and amplify women’s abortion stories in order to break the silence, defend the clinics and providers most under attack, and meet with people to build lasting organization to DEFEAT the whole war on women.
The bottom line is that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision made abortion legal in the United States in 1973. State-level efforts to restrict abortion access are making it difficult for women who — like Mark Ruffalo’s mom — choose to terminate a pregnancy to do so safely and legally, as is currently their right according to the laws of the highest court in the country. He foresees, as many of us do, a time when women will put themselves in danger to get what they have been considered able to access safely:
“I don’t want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room just south of the state line. Where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman’s life. So that is why I am lending my voice to you and your movement today. Because I actually trust the women I know. I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that right at the risk of death or jail time.”
Celebrities frequently speak out for pro-choice causes. What is less common is to hear the voice of any defense of women’s health and rights, sadly, coming from a man. Mark Ruffalo raising his voice as a son and a father would be a powerful thing even if he weren’t a celebrity with a larger platform than most people in the United States. The fact that he is well-known and that he has chosen to speak up on behalf of the women in his life (particularly as the son of a mother who chose to terminate a pregnancy) is noteworthy.
Sadly, we’re living in a time where women have flooded the state Capitol building because they felt their voices weren’t being heard by the men in the room who were making major decisions about their lives. That being said, there’s power in any man saying: “I trust them with their bodies and I trust them with their children.” It seems like this is a thing that shouldn’t have to be clarified at all, and yet we live in a time when it does.
Hopefully, Mark Ruffalo’s choice to exercise his freedom of speech in support of what remains a legal procedure will motivate others to do the same — or to speak out on behalf of anything they believe in, honestly. The First Amendment exists for the safe and legal airing of opposing views, as well as finding support for our own. As he says at the end of his letter:
“I invite you to find your voice and let it be known that you stand for abortion rights and the dignity of a woman to be the master of her own life and body. I invite you to search your soul and ask yourself if you actually stand for what you say you stand for. Thank you for being here today and thank you for standing up for the women in my life.”
Image credit: Pacific Coast News