Soon after a Supreme Court draft ruling that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked last month, Amanda Shires shared some personal news on social media. “Recently, I had an ectopic pregnancy,” she tweeted. “On August 9, 2021 my fallopian tube ruptured. On August 10, my life was saved…these are some dark days.”
Shires, an incisive songwriter and solo artist and occasional member of husband Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit band, has been vocal about protecting a woman’s right to choose in the past. In 2020, she penned an op-ed for Rolling Stone about why abortion rights matter. In a new interview, Shires — who returns with her latest album Take It Like a Man in July — goes deeper into her own experiences and calls on artists, especially those in Nashville, to start using the platforms they’ve been given.
When I wrote my first piece for Rolling Stone, I’d had an abortion before. Since writing that op-ed, I have had reproductive healthcare — that some might call an abortion — when I was hospitalized in Texas on August 9, 2021, with a ruptured fallopian tube caused by an ectopic pregnancy. For those who are unfamiliar, it is impossible for an ectopic pregnancy to go to term. I would have died; my daughter, Mercy, would have lost her mother; my husband, Jason, would be a widower.
I was lucky. This happened to me two and a half weeks before Texas’ abortion ban went into effect. And I was still dealing with all of it two and a half weeks later. I mean, only just now — nine months later, interestingly enough — have I returned to having normal periods. This fight is about more than just abortion. I think that’s what people keep forgetting.
The majority of people are in favor of women’s reproductive rights and health; it’s others we’re trying to get to. But I think folks forget that access to abortion and reproductive healthcare is not just about terminating unwanted pregnancy. People forget that, if you take away access to reproductive healthcare, you’re going to be killing moms like me. I would have died had this procedure not been available to me. Where would that leave my own daughter?
We’ve had legal abortions for 50 years and now, suddenly, a long-held right will be illegal. How are we going to police that? People will have to prove that they have been raped. And any policing will disproportionately affect people of color, low-income folks and other marginalized groups. It’s yet another thing that, when policing does happen, is going to happen haphazardly and ruin lives. Where does that get us with our Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights?
When Roe is overturned, some healthcare workers may feel afraid to help people. A person having a miscarriage may have to fly to another state, just so they or their doctor doesn’t get into legal trouble. People are still going to get abortions, and we’re going to have to keep people’s secrets, and house people, and try to do the best we can. When we overturn Roe, we risk going back to, “Oh, now same-sex marriages can’t happen. Interracial marriages can’t happen.” Privacy rights are going to be gone.
Demographer Diana Greene Foster conducted a 10-year study tracking both people who had abortions and people who were denied abortions. Her study essentially proves that when folks can’t have an abortion, it affects their mental health, their economic standing, their overall well-being. Ninety-five percent of study participants who did have an abortion still stood by their decision. It’s just like you would expect, but there’s real, scientific proof for it now. In the past, white men have said otherwise.
Since publishing my op-ed, I’ve heard from some folks who are in their eighties. And that, to me, was incredible, because they had abortions in what was a pre-Roe v. Wade environment and they’re only now sharing their stories for the first time. I’m glad to be a listener and also glad to see folks from those generations supporting the right to choose. It made me think, “You know, I bet our grandmothers are more pro-choice than everybody leads us to believe.”
As it turns out, it did start some conversations within our own families. We found out that, yes, our grandmothers are pro-choice. They might not have had a voice before or might have been cast out into the streets without any place to sleep had they mentioned it earlier in their lives. But finding a voice now and sharing their stories now is as good as any time. Hearing these stories, I think that it makes your backbone stronger. It makes it feel like you’re tough enough for the fight, all the way down to your bones.
I also received responses from trolls. I had people threatening me. But whatever. It’s not more threatening than the idea of taking away the services and the work that doctors and nurses do. I don’t care if somebody wants to put a target on me. I wouldn’t go back and change it. If we tell our stories, it helps other people feel empowered. It de-stigmatizes the conversation. If you share your story or share your beliefs, you’re going to get some haters and trolls. But if you don’t, you’re going to be wondering, “What didn’t I do? What didn’t I say that could have helped change one mind?” I can’t live with the idea of not speaking up.
We have to work hard now to mobilize and help people vote. The election is November 8. You don’t see a lot of men speaking up, and every voice is helpful. Which brings up the question, why were Jason and I, and Margo Price, the biggest celebrities — quasi-celebrities — at the march in Nashville? Why didn’t more people show up and speak up? I know everyone is scared of losing their rung on the ladder, but there are more important things, I think, than your fame. Not saying something is not helping. Not standing up for folks is not helping and it’s not right. I would like to think that fans can hold their role models and their favorite musicians accountable. Don’t support artists who don’t support your rights.
I would like to challenge other folks who have platforms to actually use them. Where the fuck are the rest of them? We have Olivia Rodrigo and Phoebe Bridgers speaking up, and Ariana Grande. Where are our Nashville folks? They aren’t helping. Are they just going to sit around and drink beer? I want Garth Brooks out there telling people that women’s health is a priority. That’s what I want. Why not? What does he have to lose?
My best hope is that people continue to get angrier and that the folks who have been fighting so hard for so long, and are already tired, find some strength to keep fighting and also to mobilize others, especially youth, along the way. I hope that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, it causes such a fucking uproar that we end up with more rights than we had before.