Kerry Washington Recalls Giving Doctors a Fake Name to Get an Abortion in Her 20s

“It’s just so important to me that abortion is not a bad word and my abortion is not another thing... I’m ashamed of,” Washington told People.

Kerry Washington Recalls Giving Doctors a Fake Name to Get an Abortion in Her 20s
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Ahead of Kerry Washington’s forthcoming memoir Thicker Than Water, which comes out Tuesday, the actor revealed in interviews with People and ABC’s Robin Roberts on Sunday that she had an abortion in her twenties.

Washington recounted staring down an unplanned pregnancy at roughly the same time she learned she was cast in Spike Lee’s 2003 movie She Hate Me—a role that would ultimately propel Washington into stardom. According to People, which reviewed an advance copy of the memoir, Washington gave a fake name to doctors for the procedure, seeking to protect her privacy “as her career was taking off”—even as she “felt shame as well as a degree of hypocrisy” in keeping it a secret after she worked as a sexual health educator in her teens.

In a clip from the audiobook of Thicker Than Water obtained by Good Morning America, Washington says, “The nurse looked down at me, smiled, and very gently said, do you know who you look like? She said that I looked like Kerry Washington, that girl from movies.”


Kerry Washington reveals in #ThickerThanWater how she was recognized while having an abortion. She told #RobinRoberts she’s sharing about her experience “to let go of the shame about having an abortion…and to also share I experienced a lack of privacy.” #KerryWashington #Abortion

♬ original sound – Good Morning America – Good Morning America

“I struggled a lot in the beginning with whether or not to include my abortion story,” Washington told People. “At first I wasn’t really sure how it fit into this story of my life. But I started to feel like it was really important for me to share this.” Ultimately, she made the decision to speak about the experience because “this story had so much to do with my understanding of myself and the world as my career unfolded.”

“It’s just so important to me that abortion is not a bad word, and that my abortion is not another thing on the list of things that I’m ashamed of,” Washington told People, adding that “it’s really important to be telling the truth about our reproductive choices because some of those choices are being stripped away from us.”

Washington also spoke about her desire to challenge anti-abortion stigma in her interview with Roberts. “We stay in our circles of shame because we don’t talk about it. So, I challenged myself to try to write about my experience having an abortion to sort of let go of the shame about having an abortion and say, like, ‘This is what happens. A lot of women do this. This is a form of health care. This is OK.’” Washington told Roberts she wanted to “share that I experienced a lack of privacy and how hard that is, and we have to value our right to privacy and to free agency and to choice.”

Elsewhere in her memoir, Washington delves into a range of difficult moments from her past, including struggles with an eating disorder and suicidal ideation, surviving child sexual abuse, and learning only recently that her dad isn’t her biological father. Today, Washington shares two young kids with her husband, Nnamdi Asomugha.

She joins a growing list of prominent public figures across politics and the entertainment industry who have shared their abortion stories, both in the lead-up to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year and in the aftermath. Comedian Leslie Jones—whose memoir Leslie F*cking Jones came out last week—shares in her own book that she had three abortions, writing, “Planned Parenthood saved my life. I still give money to them to this day. When I went to Planned Parenthood, I finally learned how to prevent pregnancies and take care of myself.”

In a political climate that often equates abortion with loss—loss of potential life, loss of a future—I’ll always deeply appreciate how abortion stories, like Washington’s, remind us of the incredible lives, careers, and futures that abortion allows us to build.

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