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Abortion rights activists protest outside the US supreme court in Washington, DC. Picture: ERIC LEE/BLOOMBERG
Abortion rights activists protest outside the US supreme court in Washington, DC. Picture: ERIC LEE/BLOOMBERG

After the US supreme court’s decision overturning Roe vs Wade and ending the constitutional right to abortion, some have decided to share their stories publicly — on LinkedIn.

The platform is largely a public-facing resumé — a place to record work experiences and put forth the most polished personas to potential employers — with the added bonus of creating connections among people in the same field. Now, some LinkedIn users are sharing abortion stories on the platform, and, by extension, with their bosses, employees, coworkers, friends and family. A few of these posts have taken off, garnering tens of thousands of likes and countless comments. 

“That women are willing to use this platform to tell this particular story — that is groundbreaking,” said Kabrina Chang, professor of business law and ethics at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. Other social media sites are places designed for people to share personal things like photos of their pets or what they had for dinner last night. “But LinkedIn people go to for one reason, and one reason only: employment. Whether it’s to network, whether it’s to find a job, whether it’s to hire people, whether it’s to learn professional skills,” she said. 

The choice is, for many, an intentional one that isn’t without risk. The posts also come as privacy has emerged as one of the top concerns around companies reimbursing their employees to travel for an abortion.

“People have been fired and disciplined for things that they post on social media. This is a platform where not just your current employer, but potential employers will go to look for you,” Chang said. “That takes a tremendous amount of courage to do.”

Like the #MeToo movement that paved the way before it, it can be jarring to see such private details and raw emotions shared in such a public fashion

Like the #MeToo movement that paved the way before it, it can be jarring to see such private details and raw emotions shared in such a public fashion. The posts personalise a widely cited statistic: one in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. 

For Linda Kim, the decision to share her experience was monumental both because she’s kept it secret for over 20 years and also because, as a psychiatrist, part of her professional training is to be highly judicious with self-disclosure, she said in an interview.

Kim’s post has more than 140,000 likes on LinkedIn and over 3,500 comments. “It speaks to this desire for not feeling alone, for someone to say it out loud,” she said. “Other women have made this decision — another professional woman, another doctor.” Part of why it resonated may be that it helps break down some of the myths around someone who might need abortion as being young and irresponsible, she said.

Many of the messages Kim received privately are from people who are grateful she shared her story, as they didn’t feel they could.

She chose to share on LinkedIn as a way to convey that this issue can’t be compartmentalised at work. “I work mainly with professional men and women in my practice, and these are the issues that come up in their workplaces,” she said. “From depression and stress to family and IVF [in vitro fertilisation] journeys and menopause, and all of that that comes with us in the workplace — we just have never been permitted to talk about it at work.”

Madison Butler took to LinkedIn the day the supreme court’s decision was announced. Her post laid out that abortion is health care and a human right. Butler said in an interview she felt a responsibility to be open about her experience since she has a platform and job security that many don’t.

“The reason I talk about my abortion here specifically is because I wouldn’t have been able to have the career I do without it,” Butler said.

As a human resource professional, one of her main goals is to show company leaders that people can’t simply shut the rest of their lives off when they’re at work. “Whether it’s Roe vs Wade, or Covid, or George Floyd, we’re just conditioned to think that I have to just smile and type and send my emails,” said Butler, a chief people officer for an Austin-based start-up. “Unfortunately, that’s not how life works.” 

Some in leadership positions posted knowing the weight their disclosures could carry for their employees. At companies that have pledged to support workers who need to travel to access care, sharing an experience could make the difference for someone overcoming fears around sharing something so personal and stigmatised, said Chang. 

For Aliisa Rosenthal, head of sales at OpenAI, the appeal of sharing stories on LinkedIn is that it’s one of the few social media platforms where you see content from people beyond those you follow. She wanted to reach people in her mostly male network who may not be exposed to stories about the serious medical risks that come with pregnancy on their own Facebook or Instagram feeds. 

“I am thrilled at the number of views and the conversations it has created,” Rosenthal said. “I hope that many men have had their bubbles rocked a bit.”

Still, not everyone is happy to see the posts. Many commenters argue the content isn’t appropriate for LinkedIn and would be better suited for a platform like Facebook, where personal stories — and partisan outrage — are the local currency. But for professionals like Kim, the posts represent a step towards acknowledging that humanity can’t easily be tucked away from nine to five.

“A lot of comments are like, why are you bringing this up on LinkedIn? This is a professional social media site, take it to Facebook or TikTok,” Kim said. “But actually, that’s the whole point — you’re missing the point.”

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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