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Benefield: The woman behind the brilliant abortion Twitter thread

In the minutes, hours and days following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion that seems all but guaranteed to overturn Roe v. Wade and dramatically alter reproductive health care for women in this country, I had a lot of thoughts.

I thought that I have never known a time before Roe established a woman’s right to control her own health care options.

I thought that this ruling, if it comes to pass, won’t end abortion, just the safe and legal kind.

And I also thought of Gabrielle Blair, a New York Times bestselling author, blogger and designer who grabbed my attention four years ago when she wrote the most brilliant, insightful, cutting and bold take on abortion I have ever seen.

Blair’s Twitter thread — all 63 tweets of it — exploded online. She has since reposted it on her Instagram page and her website. Every time, it gets forwarded around the world and back approximately three kazillion times.

I thought about Blair, a Mormon mom of six children who lived in Oakland when she “penned” the Twitter thread, but who has since moved to France. And I wondered what she makes of where we are now.

So, I called her.

‘Please don’t take it away’

Blair’s first sentence in the 2018 tweet is genius.

“I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon.”

She knew what she was doing with that.

“I don’t shy away from being Mormon,” she told me.

But, like most things, it doesn’t say everything about her. But it says enough that she has a wider audience because of it.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a conservative religion and deeply formed by, for lack of a better term, family values.

Blair knows this full well.

“I use it as a tool when I need it. I knew conservatives would be more open to reading it so I intentionally wrote it that way,” she told me. “I tried to get the most amount of people thinking about this in a different way.”

“If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies...ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men.”

And from there Blair breaks it down. And she’s not gentle. And the following is just a slice.

A women’s eggs are fertile one to two days a month, meaning she can get pregnant approximately 24 days out of the year, Blair said. But a man can cause a pregnancy multiple times a day, 365 days a year.

So to put the onus of birth control on women is patently unfair. But also largely par for the course.

“Modern birth control is possibly the greatest invention of the last century, and I am very grateful for it. It’s also brutal. The side effects for many women are ridiculously harmful.”

“...even with horrible side effects, women are still very willing to use birth control. Unfortunately it’s harder to get than it should be. Birth control options for women require a doctor’s appointment and a prescription. It’s not free and often not cheap.”

“I have tried every form of birth control,” she told me. “I hated all of them. I don’t like how I felt, I didn’t like the side effects. I have to go to the doctor, I have to refill the prescription and I just hated it all and it’s hard.”

And then back to the math. All of that work for women for one or two days of fertility? Where are the men here?

“I have to take the pill, I have to ingest some hormone for one day of fertility. It’s just insane to me,” she told me. “I know women who are on birth control or might not be on birth control. They might not be able to take it safely, there are things that interrupt it...I don’t hear people discussing those things.”

But Blair makes it clear in her tweets (writing in all caps, in fact): “...the side effects can be brutal. I’M STILL GRATEFUL FOR IT PLEASE DON’T TAKE IT AWAY.”

And, again, where are the men here?

“Why don’t men just use condoms every time they have sex? Seems so simple, right? Oh. I remember. Men don’t love condoms.”

And therein lies a power struggle.

“...in general, women love when men use condoms. They keep us from getting STDs, they don’t lessen our pleasure during sex or prevent us from climaxing.”

But in that struggle for control and agency, much less power, women lose.

“It’s worse in the bedroom, for sure, because we have this culture where we have all been taught that sex is for men,” she told me.

“Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.”

Which brings us back to abortion, to Roe v. Wade, to the Supreme Court and to legislating women’s health care.

Blair, understandably, feels angrier now than she did four years ago when she wrote the original thread. More frustrated.

I asked her what is to be done now? What do those who are angry and frustrated do?

“I would like Democrats to be angry,” she told me. “Don’t use softer words. When people get pissed off, it’s effective.”

She pointed to Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who earned plaudits for not ignoring or softly rebutting baseless accusations from a fellow legislator last month that McMorrow wants to “groom” and “sexualize” kindergartners while also teaching 8-year-olds that they are responsible for slavery.

McMorrow fought back. She was angry. She called out the lie.

More of that please, Blair told me.

“People were so happy for it and it was so effective,” she told me. “There may be a time when being softer works, but not now.”

I asked Blair about our being on the cusp of the fall of Roe v. Wade.

“If I’m trying to be as hopeful as I can...if it really becomes impossible and women can’t get abortions and they have to travel 1,000 miles, is that a turning point? Oh, now we are angry?”

Women in Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming are on the precipice of something dangerous. More states could follow.

Abortions won’t end, no matter what happens with Roe v. Wade. But safe and legal abortions will be dramatically harder to obtain. It will be impossible for many women.

“Just be aware of what’s happening,” Blair told me. “Even though your life might be going great, other people might be experiencing something totally different.”

You can reach Staff Columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @benefield.

Kerry Benefield

Columnist, The Press Democrat

Have a story that is wild, wacky, bizarre or beautiful? Tell me about it. Have a question that starts with, “What’s the deal with…?” Let’s figure it out together. This column is about the story behind the story, a place to shine a light on who we are, what makes us a community and all of the things that make us special. With your help, I'll be tackling the questions that vex us: (the funny, the mundane, and the irritating.)

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