“In February of 2020, just one month prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I sat next to my husband in front of the doctor at the Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville, FL and swallowed the mifepristone pill he had just administered to me. I swallowed the lump in my throat with it. My husband and I found ourselves pregnant at 29 years old and two weeks after I had been diagnosed with MDD, major depressive disorder, on top of the anxiety, ADHD, and eating disorder I was already battling. I was 108 pounds at my thinnest, anemic, deficient in iron, vitamins B, D… the list goes on. Our birth control method failed us, and we agonized and prayed over what to do next.”
“Doing research on mental health and pregnancy only made us feel worse and overlooked, with a lack of medication and/or treatment options deemed safe. It felt like we couldn’t win no matter the path we traveled down, and I could not see at a time I no longer wished to be on this earth how I could simultaneously bring a child into it. Mental illness runs deep in my family, as well as suicide attempts… my grandmother, mother, and sister alone have all attempted in their lifetimes. And at that time in my illness, I thought I was next.”
“Our abortion decision very much came from a profound love for our fetus and a recognition of the physical and mental stamina that they and pregnancy would require.
But I was somewhat naive to think our decision would be embraced by those closest to us in our lives, something we would unfortunately spend the next two years becoming all too familiar with.”
“These pieces are my rawest expression of how I have experienced the intersectionality of Reproductive Justice and mental illness – and how others may experience it as well. I tried to paint the data that fueled me – our horrific Black maternal death rate, transphobia in reproductive conversations, the lies The Turnaway Study disproved but won’t seem to go away about mental health and abortion. I also tried to capture the emotions that moved me – the physical crippling harsh judgment can cause, vs. the holy dignity we can feel when we practice moral agency.”
“I created two series, one titled Stigma, the other titled Solidarity.
The first series encapsulates the embodiment of stigma and its sisters – shame, judgment, transphobia, death – while the second series encapsulates the embodiment of solidarity and its sisters – choice, trust, dignity, autonomy. Each painting in the Stigma series has a twin-yet-wholly-opposite painting in the Solidarity series.”
“I hope the contrast between them illuminates what is vs. what could be – should be. And I hope we can aspire to more than just autonomy for reproductive justice and a departure from stigma. I hope solidarity is our true future.”
Baileigh Johnson (she/her) is a creator, activist, writer, and a storyteller with Planned Parenthood Jacksonville. After having an abortion in February of 2020, she began processing her experience (and others’ interpretation of it) through her art. Studying all body types, genders, and expressions, and exploring the physical embodiments of the emotions surrounding shame vs support, Johnson hopes to capture the harm of abortion stigma contrasted with the hope of what could be: true solidarity. Johnson resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Christopher and their dog son Finn.