Over brunch in the feather of 2016, Jennifer Conti, MD, clinical assistant professor in obstetrics and also gynecology at Stanford University, and also Gillian Schivone, MD, one Ob/Gyn in the Midwest, began to talk about wanting to acquire tattoos. Even though they had been nearby friends due to the fact that their fellowship days, and also had spent hours talking about patients and their personal lives, this conversation feeling different. “It was pretty spontaneous,” Schivone says. Conti, who is also cohost of the V indigenous Podcast adds, “neither of us had actually tattoos or had actually really even considered getting one, yet on the morning it seemed right.”

This sudden advice for long-term ink to be sparked by being in Texas in ~ a time as soon as TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation that Abortion Providers) had actually closed about half of the abortion clinics in the state; both women space abortion providers, and also they occurred to it is in in Austin because that the nationwide Abortion Federation’s yearly conference. Through less accessibility to safe care, ladies throughout the state had started to take matters right into their very own hands. There was a increase in self-induced abortions as a result of clinic closures. Simply as they have actually throughout background when accessibility to abortion was outlawed or restricted, women discovered other regularly dangerous methods to achieve the exact same results. In that moment, in a conference full of abortion providers, the anger and frustration end this type of policy, and fears because that women’s safety, to be palpable and also powerful.

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These feelings room seeping into the collective consciousness again now that Brett Kavanaugh has actually been confirmed to the can be fried Court, whereby he can have a massive impact on the stamin of Roe V. Walking to save abortion safe and also legal.

Soon the women's “should we?" turned into a “let’s execute it tonight,” which was solidified when they ran right into Diane Horvath-Cosper, MD MPH, the clinical director of entirety Women’s health and wellness in Baltimore, and a mutual friend. “When you gain your first tattoo, you need a wing mrs — go into Diane,” Conti says. “Diane is no-nonsense and already had a tattoo, so we knew she'd organize us to it.” and Horvath-Cosper to be up for the task: “Jenn said, ‘We're going come go gain tattoos; want to come acquire one?’ and I heard myself say, ‘Sure!’”

Elsewhere in ~ the conference, Emma Slachta, a registered nurse, and also her friend, Daniela Diaz, a us Testify abortion storyteller who works at a nationwide reproductive health organization, were having actually the very same discussion. “There is a huge bond and also strength that comes out of those who occupational in abortion care,” Slachta says. “They are my tribe, and some of my best ‘sheroes.’” Diaz remembers feeling like, “this is miscellaneous I could have v me because that life,” including that she’s originally from Venezuela, whereby abortion is illegal, and also “care is a back-alley abortion for the majority.”

By dinnertime, the groups had join together, 6 women in full (including one that we will contact Jane Smith, that asked to stay anonymous due to the political nature of she work). “It seemed like the appropriate moment, the right time, the best people,” Slachta says. Though none remember who had the idea or whereby it originated, they every agreed ~ above the one and only tattoo they want to get: a cloak hanger.


Abortion Tattoo


Credit: Courtesy

What a Coat-Hanger Tattoo way

A google search of the native “coat-hanger” and also “abortion” will certainly lead you to the historic significance the this concept. The short story is that prior to the Roe v. Walking decision, plenty of women offered dangerous methods to induce their very own abortions, and also twisted-up wire hangers were among the an ext macabre (and life-threatening) ones. The are afraid of this image ending up being reality once again was an extremely much in the head of these women’s minds. So, too, was the photo from Wendy Davis’s historic filibuster in Texas during 2013, as soon as Representative Senfronia Thompson hung a coat hanger from her microphone to voice her dissent over a Senate invoice that would certainly ban end pregnancies in the state ~ 20 weeks.

To Conti, “The coat hanger seemed the organic choice, choose a 'no walk back' symbol. That symbolizes the thing around which i am many passionate in mine work and for mine patients. It's badass, chic, and a reminder the we will not go earlier to a time when women were left through this alternative — not if ns can aid it.” come Horvath-Cosper, it served as a “visible reminder that why I do this work. I feel favor to some degree, abortion carriers are freedom fighters. The coat hanger tattoo is around the fight come be complimentary from having actually to endanger our own health and lives to have the ability to determine if, when, and also how to have a family. Nobody should ever before again feeling desperate sufficient to risk self-harm to end a pregnancy.”

Schivone agreed, explaining that to her, “it to represent the idea the we deserve to never go back to pre-Roe times, where world were dying because of unsafe abortions. The reminds me why I perform the occupational I do when things room difficult, and also it reminds me of what’s at stake, which are the really lives of people who can get pregnant.” Slachta added, “it recognizes the historical and present opposition to abortion access, and that i want far better for those search care.” Their last companion, blacksmith said: “I job-related in policy, so as soon as I see my tattoo, it's a reminder that all that we're fighting for and all the we have to lose.”

Diaz and also Conti each explained an additional, personal meaning. “I'd had an abortion a couple of years prior and also had the privilege to have actually safe access to care. also reminds me of the privilege I've had to have safe access,” Diaz says. For Conti, the tattoo represents one more kind of an individual transformation. “I to be anti-choice up till college and grew up in a really conservative household...It's additionally a symbol of how much I've come in terms of being able to empathize v women and also understand that ns am in no location to judge others for your life decisions.”

Together over dinner castle googled tattoo parlors in Austin, check out reviews on Yelp, and consulted a couple of friends, till they arrived on All Saints Tattoo. “We had two requests: One, we necessary a mrs tattoo artist — this was around female empowerment,” Conti says. “And two: She necessary to it is in pro-choice (we accurate asked, ‘How perform you feel about abortion?’).”

When it was time because that needle come hit skin, as medical professionals, they were ready for some pain. Smith explains, “I remember once we were actually acquiring the tattoos, talking about how many women go without pain medicines for their very first abortion procedures, since those meds another pair hundred dollars. So countless women are piecing together sufficient funds because that the procedure itself the anesthesia is out of the question.”

Each woman chose her very own placement because that the tattoo based on how comfortable she to be being asked around it. “Gillian, Diane, and also I all wanted it on our ankles so world could see them and also so they wouldn't be hidden,” Conti says. “We weren't ashamed of our feelings around abortion, and we want them to it is in conversation-starters. A cloak hanger is an odd sufficient tattoo that you at least need to stop and also consider what it might mean, including abortion, if you view it indigenous afar.” Horvath-Cosper added, “I wanted it to it is in visible, since I welcome the possibility it offers me come talk about abortion care and why it's for this reason important.”

Slachta, however, feeling differently. “I was among the couple of in the group who obtained it in a less public space. I have other tattoos that space much more visible, which can attract attention and also questions. Due to the fact that this problem is so an individual to me, and also because we room in such a duration of anti-abortion legislation and also restrictions to access, i did not desire the opportunity of some anti chatting me up about their think on abortion.”

While every woman explained their task as your passion and as virtually a “calling,” they additionally described emotion unsafe or misunderstood. When asked what to be most frequently misconstrued about their job, Conti powerfully stated, “That us are an excellent people. Not infrequently after caring for a woman, she will rotate to me and say, ‘Thank you for being so nice come me,’ to which I'll reply, ‘Why wouldn't i be?’ world imagine that the men and women who carry out abortions are a unique breed that provider who only do this in a vacuum and don't check out the whole person. The reality is, abortion providers also deliver babies, take the end your ovarian cysts, and assist with your menopause symptoms. We realize that caring for women means caring because that them during every facet of their reproductive life, and also without judgment.”

It is these kinds of conversations that some of the females hoped the tattoo would certainly prompt. Schivone recalls a mrs asking what hair meant, when she rode the metro in D.C. “I decided I felt safe to disclose come her and also we had actually an interesting conversation about reproductive access. She admitted she hadn’t thought around these issues...and was surprised by how minimal abortion treatment is.” Diaz has actually had similar experiences anywhere the world. She remembered, “In an island off of the coast of Ibiza, Formentera, a mrs knew what this was about. Not only did she prefer the tattoo however she talked to me around her abortion. Oftentimes, it's a conversation starter as part folks understand the definition of the hanger. It easily leads come storytelling.”

Though the females left the conference, some to opposite end of the country, the experience united them. Horvath-Cosper said, “It was among the most powerful bonding experiences I've had with a group of women. Ns think around our team often and I continue to be in call with everyone since we are all still working in abortion care and advocacy and also because they're all powerful, kind, gibberish people.”

It is without question that they thought about each other later that year once the supreme Court voted to overturn the TRAP regulations in Texas. Because that that brief moment in time, your tattoos symbolized a success in the fight for reproductive rights. But, as it has throughout your careers, the success was temporary, together abortion accessibility is again under siege.

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“At the time I gained the tattoo ns didn’t think we would certainly be for this reason close to having multiple states with no abortion clinics in ~ all. Over there is definitely much more urgency currently to the idea of maintaining abortion safe and also accessible,” Schivone says. Horvath-Cosper adds, “The fight feels for this reason much much more urgent, specifically as we confront the opportunity of the overturn of Roe. However the reality is the for many people, this has always been urgent. Landscape women, human being of color, adolescents, world with short incomes, immigrants, world with disabilities — the promise of Roe has actually never been completely realized for them. It's a battle to get any type of healthcare, and especially reproductive healthcare.”

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Perhaps that is why the coat hanger tattoo has transcended the abortion provider community and entered the general public. “I'm no sure exactly how many world have that now, yet it's not insignificant," Conti says. "It's favor a sign of the rebellion, and also people want to join.” ~ above Instagram at the time of publication, the hashtag #hangertattoo revealed 409 short articles — no a wildfire of a trend, yet it’s definitely out there beyond the six women who obtained theirs ~ above a whim that day in Texas. The course, we can't assume that every person with a hanger tattoo obtained theirs for reproductive-rights connected reasons; there's additionally a clutch the fashion girls the end there v hanger tattoos ostensibly representing your love of clothes. However in 2017, planned Parenthood had actually a fundraiser where Brooklyn tattoo artist doled the end “pre-designed, female empowerment-themed” tattoos, as the Huffington write-up reported, and a an easy black coat hanger was among the options.

As because that whether this six service providers hope the tendency takes off? Well, of course, they to speak it’s every individual’s choice. “One the the things about being pro-choice is ns don't hold opinions around what other world do v their own bodies,” smith says. None of the ladies regrets she tattoo now, two years later. Conti, for she part, feels organized accountable through it: “It’s a daily reminder the we can never yes, really let under our guard. Us will always need come fight because that women,” she says. “I can't be complacent through this symbol on me.”