After outrage erupted over Lena Dunham’s recent remark that “I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had,” the “Girls” star posted a lengthy apology to her Instagram account late Tuesday.
“My words were spoken from a sort of ‘delusional girl’ persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that’s what my TV show is too) and it didn’t translate,” she said in her Instagram post. “That’s my fault.”
It was the type of apology many have come to expect from Dunham — complete with self-flagellation, an odd attempt at explanation and a lingering hint of self-absorption. The outspoken writer and actress has sparked plenty of controversy recently, surrounding a couple of her tweets that deal with race, her sexual interactions with her little sister and her suggestion that a star football player was a misogynist.
The most recent outcry began with a comment during Dunham’s “Women of the Hour” podcast last week, as she told the story of her visit years ago to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas, where a girl asked Dunham if she would share her own abortion story.
“I sort of jumped. ‘I haven’t had an abortion,’ I told her,” she said in the podcast.
It was a moment of self-realization, she continued, because it suddenly occurred to her that she had internalized some of the stigma that surrounds abortion: “Even I, the woman who cares as much as anybody about a woman’s right to choose, felt that it was important that people know that I was unblemished in this department.”
She concluded that she had since banished this feeling. “Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had,” she said.
Not surprisingly, this remark didn’t go over well, even among some fellow reproductive rights supporters. Many took to Twitter to distance themselves from her statement and to criticize her for trivializing the procedure:
— JulietJeske (@JulietJeske) December 20, 2016
Let me say as a pro-choicer, I do NOT agree with Lena Dunham.
— Karen Alea (@KarenAleaFord) December 20, 2016
in an era of hyperpartisanship, lena dunham's ability to craft takes that infuriate the entire political spectrum is genuinely impresive
— sean. (@SeanMcElwee) December 20, 2016
Her comment was quickly seized by antiabortion activists, who pointed to it as proof that abortion is glorified by its defenders. Some reproductive rights activists noted that this sort of attention isn’t exactly helpful to the cause Dunham aims to champion.
“Treating abortion like a leisurely activity that Lena Dunham can personally help normalize represents a cartoonish version of clueless urban liberalism we’d be well-served to rid ourselves of,” Erin Gloria Ryan wrote in the Daily Beast.
As the controversy quickly spread across social media, Dunham posted an apology Tuesday night on her Instagram account, alongside an image of the word “choice.”
“I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy,” she wrote. “My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don’t convey this truth clearly.”
She also vowed to put her money where her mouth is: “You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar?” she wrote. “Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds … in New York, Texas and Ohio.”
It wasn’t the first time Dunham has found herself apologizing for a statement that many found offensive, tone-deaf and vaguely narcissistic. In September, she drew fierce criticism for sharing her assumption that New York Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. was judging her body when the two sat at the same table during the Met Ball. (She issued a lengthy apology on Instragram then, too, acknowledging that she “made totally narcissistic assumptions about what he was thinking, then presented those assumptions as facts.”)
My latest podcast episode was meant to tell a multifaceted story about reproductive choice in America, to explain the many reasons women do or don't choose to have children and what bodily autonomy really means. I'm so proud of the medley of voices in the episode. I truly hope a distasteful joke on my part won't diminish the amazing work of all the women who participated. My words were spoken from a sort of "delusional girl" persona I often inhabit, a girl who careens between wisdom and ignorance (that's what my TV show is too) and it didn't translate. That's my fault. I would never, ever intentionally trivialize the emotional and physical challenges of terminating a pregnancy. My only goal is to increase awareness and decrease stigma. I take reproductive choice in America more seriously than I take literally anything else, and therefore own full responsibility for any words I speak that don't convey this truth clearly. I know plenty of people will never like a thing that leaves my lips, mea culpas or no, but this apology is for the women who have placed their trust in me. You mean everything to me. My life is and always will be devoted to reproductive justice and freedom. You know how in some households you curse and have to put money in a jar? Well in mine, if you mess up your pro-choice messaging you have to give a sizable donation to abortion funds (https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion) in New York, Texas and Ohio I look forward to fighting with you all for the next four years and beyond.