Two Best Friends Made a Podcast About Their Abortions and It’s Eye-Opening Fun

The Nation’s Regina Mahone and We Testify’s Renee Bracey Sherman love to chat about abortion. Now you can listen and learn from them both on The A Files.

Two Best Friends Made a Podcast About Their Abortions and It’s Eye-Opening Fun
Photo:Courtesy of The Meteor

In 2022, Renee Bracey Sherman, executive director of We Testify, and Regina Mahone, a long-time abortion reporter and senior editor at The Nation, began co-writing their forthcoming book Liberating Abortion. But working up against page count limitations predictably sucked, Bracey Sherman told Jezebel; there was too much to include and they would spend hours just talking about all things abortion. Then, according to Bracey Sherman, Cindi Leive, co-founder of The Meteor “heard us bantering” about the topic, “asked if we ever thought about starting a podcast about abortion,” and the idea was born.

Initially, Bracey Sherman—whose organization We Testify helps people tell their abortion stories—wanted to call their podcast Everything You’ve Been Told About Abortion Is a Lie. They wound up going in a different direction, calling it The A Files: A Secret History of Abortion instead. But the truth-telling, myth-busting objective of the original title remains. On The A Files, which airs its fifth episode this week, Bracey Sherman and Mahone share their own abortion stories while exploring a different topic—and, often, misconception—related to abortion.

In an episode from January, Bracey Sherman and Mahone dispelled the idea that abortion is readily available in all “blue” states. This week, they talk to abortion researcher Dr. Gretchen Sisson about her new book Relinquished and the dark realities of the adoption industry, as well as the history of how adoption became propped up as a supposed “alternative” to abortion.

Obviously, the state of abortion rights in the U.S. is fairly bleak right now, and some of the revelations Bracey Sherman and Mahone deliver will leave you even more outraged. But throughout, their chemistry keeps The A Files an enjoyable, refreshing listen from start to finish. “When we’re talking about abortion, we’re talking about some of the most important moments of our lives—it’s very intimate in that way. How can you not do this work with the people you love?” Bracey Sherman said, calling Mahone one of her closest friends. The podcast is as informative as it is fun, with the friends sharing stories of DM’ing their city council members (and, at least once, getting results), riffing off the mainstream pro-choice movement’s obsession with The Handmaid’s Tale (which inspired their weekly “There Are Other Books” segment), and generally breaking down movement politics through an entertainingly unfiltered lens.

Mahone told Jezebel that the two bonded years ago over sharing their abortion stories (including Mahone’s experience realizing that she wanted an abortion because she wanted to become a parent only when she was ready) and their shared goal of challenging racist narratives about abortion, including in ostensibly “pro-choice” spaces. “It’s really fun to talk about the reality of everything that gets overlooked from our perspective as two Black women who’ve had abortions because that’s a voice that has not really been given a platform before in the podcast space,” Mahone said.

Last week, Mahone and Bracey Sherman talked to If/When/How’s Rafa Kidvai about pregnancy and the criminal legal system. The episode came at roughly the same time Brittney Watts—a Black woman in Ohio who faced a felony charge for her miscarriage despite seeking an abortion for a nonviable pregnancy and being turned away from the hospital—told CBS that her nurse reported her to the police. Mahone, Bracey Sherman, and Kidvai discuss how most cases of self-managed abortion that get reported to the police are by acquaintances and health care workers; how police and prosecutors often misuse laws that have nothing to do with pregnancy; and how the system of policing that targets pregnant people and parents expands beyond police officers. “The cops are an apparatus, a whole bunch of people,” Kidvai says in the episode. “Prosecutors are cops, judges, CPS workers, sometimes welfare workers—they can all play the role of cops.”

The episode drives home a common theme throughout The A Files: the inseparability of abolition movements from reproductive justice. Between “cops in hospitals” and “a family policing system that effectively criminalizes parenting in poverty,” Bracey Sherman says that we can’t talk about reproductive justice without talking about all of “the resources and services that people can’t access because of what we’re funding instead.”

“I always think about how Black women have the highest maternal mortality, and when I was pregnant, all I could think of was how risky it was. It’s due to so much systemic bias,” Mahone said, “and also, people being so afraid if they seek health care, they’ll get reported.”

Actually, Mahone and Bracey Sherman said the entire A Files could be about systems of policing and pregnancy—but they settled for the one episode and instead, integrated an abolitionist, anti-carceral framework throughout the podcast.

Pointing to this week’s episode, for example, Bracey Sherman stressed to Jezebel the importance of recognizing that “at the core of [the adoption system] is family separation, a system that preys on poverty, on birth parents not having the support or care that they’d need to be able to parent” due to America’s gutted safety net. “Many of them aren’t interested in abortion, so they aren’t interchangeable—they actually would like to parent but don’t have the support,” because the country “funds police, not families.”

At the heart of The A Files, Mahone says, is a willingness “to say things out loud that people are afraid to say, or will get defensive about,” and “center people who have abortions.” That all includes, at different points, the two unpacking why “safe, legal, and rare” was an awful, “stigmatizing” slogan for the early abortion rights movement, as Bracey Sherman put it, and why Joe Biden’s “Restore Roe” campaign moniker is effectively meaningless, given how many people couldn’t access abortion even when Roe v. Wade was intact. The A Files is a space to have “hard conversations” about why people in power can’t say the word “abortion,” and a space for the full range of abortion experiences, including the ones Democratic politicians don’t talk about: non-traumatic experiences, happy experiences, and people who’ve had multiple abortions.

In the first episode of The A Files, Bracey Sherman talks about her early experiences around first sharing her abortion story:

“At the time, the organization I was sharing my abortion story with wanted me to play up all these justifications as to why I should have had an abortion, and downplayed the beliefs I had about how race played a really important part in my story. … They wanted me to talk about how I was in a bad relationship, all those things, really play up the sadness of why I should have an abortion. Those things were true, but I felt like they traded on a lot of stereotypes that were anti-Black.”

Since then, Bracey Sherman founded an organization to help everyone tell their personal abortion stories on their own terms. This—agency and respect for the vast range of abortion experiences—is a central theme of The A Files. “I think everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in the conversation on abortion,” Bracey Sherman said. “We will never win by only elevating stories that fit the narrative that we think our opposition will shift their minds around.”

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