I THINK SHE WAS A SHE..
B Y L E Y L A J O S E P H I N E
• Leyla Josephine is an artist originally from Glasgow, now residing in Prestwick. She is
a performance poet, theatre maker, and screenwriter.
• Leyla graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2013 from BA
Contemporary Performance Practice.
• Leyla Josephine writes on a wide range of issues. In 2014, her spoken word piece 'I
Think She Was A She’, she shared her poem at Merchant City festival on Brunswick
• Her unapologetic account of a teenage abortion made waves across the country.
• She came out and said something phenomenally brave about why she made that very
personal decision to have an abortion.
• She has had poems featured in The National, The Scotsman, The Guardian,
Huffington Post, Upworthy, BBC Scotland, BBC Radio 4, BBC Social and Gutter
• Leyla has extensive experience as a facilitator and project leader working in lots of
different social contexts creating poetry and theatre with participants. She is currently
the Schools Writer in Residence for Edinburgh International Book Festival.
• Leyla also writes for film and was one of the writer’s picked for Scottish Film Talent
Network’s Write4Film and for Scottish Shorts. She is currently working on two
upcoming shorts - Groom and Dingied.
POEM TEXT LINK
• Leyla Josephine and her piece “I think she was a SHE” is not just a spoken word
poetry inspired by ‘pro-abortion choice’, but it certainly her experience penned down
to raise awareness
• The piece “recounts the abortion she had as a teenager and the cultural shame she’s
been constantly confronted with ever since,”
• Abortion rights are not just about terminating a pregnancy, or a pro-choice dilemma, it
is also about women that have health risk, financial barriers surrounding the
pregnancy, single parenthood, teenage pregnancies, rape/harassment pregnancies,
forced pregnancies, and abortions performed due to the gender of the baby.
POEM ANALYSIS “I am not ashamed. I am
not ashamed. I’m so sick
of keeping these words
contained. I am not
Here recounts the abortion
she had as a teenager and
the cultural shame she’s
been constantly confronted
with ever since. She
declares her power over her
body as she reminds us that
a woman exercising her
right to choose is not
uncommon — and should
never be shamefully
brushed under the rug.
She starts off the piece
by proclaiming that her
fetus was a she, and
then continues to
describe how she
would've inherited things
from her mother and
I think she was a she. No. I
know she was a she and I
think that she would have
looked just like me. full
cheeks, hazel eyes and thick
She would have been like
you too, long limbs with a
sarcastic smile. and the
newest pair of kicks. She
would have been tough,
tougher than I ever was.
She talks about all
the places Leyla
would've taken here,
all the things she
could have seen
and I would have taken her to all the
museums and there she could see the
bone dinosaurs. and look to them and
wonder about all the things that came
before she was born. She could have
“I would’ve supported her right to
choose. To choose a life for herself,
a path for herself. I would’ve died
for that right like she died for mine.
I’m sorry, but you came at the
Josephine is unapologetic as she
describes why she had an abortion
and how it was truly the right decision
for her, and also claiming the support
to pro-choice for future generations
Don’t you mutter murder
on me. 70,000 per year.
70,000 per year. 70,000
per year. Dead. Thats’s
192 per day.
She quotes the ratio of
cases annually and per
day, creating awareness
about how many times this
process is being
conducted, and yet people
apart from that woman
getting it done, have a say
She addresses the need
for not just sex
education, but also
stresses the choices one
makes out of human
nature, that take a tole
on a woman’s life but not
I was a teenage girl
with a boy she loved
between her thighs
that felt very far away.
Duvet days and dole
don’t do family
Here she addresses the
ratio of the UK population,
of times women get
abortion done. She also
satirizes her post-abortive
self to steel and the act of
tearing her child apart to
chopping down a cherry
I am one in three. I am one in three. I am
one in three. I had to carve down that
little cherry tree that had rooted itself in
my blood and blossomed in my brain. A
responsibility I didn’t have the energy or
age to maintain.
I am not ashamed. It’s a hollowness,
that feels full, a numbness that feels
heavy. stop trying to fit how this
feels on an NHS bereavement
brochure already. I am allowed to
feel it all, I am allowed to feel.
Here she addresses the shame
attached to the deed. And also, how
people dehumanize the experience
but in reality, is it very much human.
POEM ANALYSIS “When I become a
mother, it will be when I
Josephine perfectly sums
up the message behind
her poem, proudly stating
this. She declares her
power over her body
continues to voice her
story to actively proclaim
the need to start a
narrative about abortion
She highlights the
hypocrisy of not only
people that force women
to have an unwanted
child, but also how they
manipulate them into not
having one. And yet in
the end, they call pro-
choice women murderers
Don’t you mutter
murder on me.
abortion like homework
Women have been cheated
out of history because it’s “his
story.” Here she asserts it’s
time to take history back. She
continues to voice her story to
actively proclaim the need to
start a narrative about
“This is her story. Our story.
Goddamnit this is my story, and it
will not be written in pencil and
erased with guilt. It will be written in
pain and spoken in courage.”
this is my story
and it won't be written in
pencil and erased with guilt.
It will be written in pen and
spoken with courage.
Finally, she asserts that this
is no one’s but her story.
And she is not ashamed,
she has owned her choice,
and has vowed to speak
about it with courage
• Abortion-rights movements, also referred to as pro-choice movements, seeks out to represent and
support women who wish to abort their fetus at any point during their pregnancy. This movement
puts forth efforts to establish a right for women to freely make the choice to have an abortion without
the discrimination based on their decision.
• Anti-abortion laws enacted in the latter half of the 19th century were a result of advocacy efforts by
feminists who worked in an uneasy alliance with the male-dominated medical profession and the
• The early feminists understood that much like today, women resorted to abortion because they were
abandoned or pressured by boyfriends, husbands and parents and lacked financial resources to
have a baby on their own.
• NOW (National Organization for Women) has made the preservation of legal abortion its number
one priority. Its literature repeatedly states that access to abortion is “the most fundamental right of
women, without which all other rights are meaningless.”
• All too often in OUR country and around the world, abortion is treated as something inherently political,
something radical that is part of a conflict on a national scale
• We live in a world where dozens of laws are proposed each year to regulate women's bodies and
control their choices, where states repeatedly try to shut down legal abortion clinics, where it's OK to
raise money to ban abortion, but not if you really need to have one, where people scream and throw
things at people walking into abortion clinics or on the contrary a country like ours, where it is always
shushed, or forced, and done in the back ally for “religious” reasons
• Choosing to have an abortion is not something that should have national implications, or some sort of
political action. It's a deeply emotional, personal choice that women make based on their own unique
circumstances. Women’s rights are not in conflict with their own children’s rights; the appearance of
such a conflict is a sign that something is wrong in society. When women have the sexual respect and
employment flexibility they need, they will no longer seek as a substitute the bloody injustice of abortion.
PAKISTAN & ABORTION
• Applying this phenomenon in Pakistan, abortion is considered illegal, ‘Haram’ and people
who have gone through it have been always shamed for it
(a) This provides women/girls that want to get it done no form of education as to where to
do it, medical complications, safe places to go to are, or what parenthood planning is
crucial to avoid the cause.
(b) The rape/harassment culture here, the ‘birth us a male heir’ culture here, and the ‘child
marriages’ culture in Pakistan, clearly states a proper need for abortion clinics, but it is
only termed illegal because of our so called “Islamic laws”
(c) It is crucial for our Pakistani society to understand that a woman's body is hers, and so
her choices related to is are also her’s, thence “mera jism meri marzi”
But this statement is difficult for a Pakistani society to infer because women here for
centuries have been oppressed, suppressed, and othered.
PAKISTAN & ABORTION
• Pakistan has an annual abortion rate of 50 per 1,000 women, the highest in South Asia and one
of the highest in world.
• Pakistan has an annual abortion rate of 50 per 1,000 women, according to a 2012 survey, the
highest in South Asia and one of the highest in world. (A previous study estimated a rate of 27
per 1000 women in 2002.)
• Although Pakistani women are clearly seeking abortions, medical practitioners often refuse to
perform them or do so only in secret—in general, both seekers and providers of abortions tend
to believe the procedure is against religion or Pakistani law, or both.
A B O R T I O N R I G H T S V s T H E C O N S T I T U T I O N
• IN PAKISTAN, UNTIL just over two decades ago, induced abortion was permissible only for the
purpose of saving a woman’s life.
• The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Section 338 of the states: induced abortion is also permissible
‘before the limbs or organs of the baby have been formed’ for the purpose of ‘necessary
• This stipulation, regarding limbs and organs is based on Islamic law, which states that induced
abortion is permitted until the ‘quickening’ of the foetus—up to 20 weeks gestation, according to
Pakistani medical practice. Induced abortions that fall outside these conditions may be
punished with prison sentences ranging from three to ten years.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
At the end of the day, abortion is an
essential service. This needs to be a
core topic for public health education, or
community medicine, a gynecologist or
obstetrician, ONE MUST BE A
FEMINIST AND ONE MUST BE PRO-
CHOICE. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
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