Meet Dr. Leah Torres, An Abortion Provider Using Twitter To Fight For Reproductive Justice
If you follow Dr. Leah Torres on Twitter, you understand what I mean when I say she is one of the most tenacious and undaunted humans on the planet. (If you don’t follow her, you should begin immediately).
Torres, an OB/GYN and abortion provider in Salt Lake City, Utah, is can often be found taking on anti-choice folks on Twitter, debunking myths about abortion, pregnancy, contraception and more. While many abortion providers keep their personal information hidden because of the risk of anti-choice violence, Torres is out in the open, not concealing her whereabouts. “I don’t hide. I feel that a big part of anti choice power is in intimidation. My information is all out there, so they can’t say they made me hide. Not everyone can do that, so I’m using my ability to be vocal to further the movement.”
“It’s all out there, they can’t say they made me hide. not everyone can do that.”
Her Twitter presence began when she started posting one medical fact a day, at which point, the anti-choicers emerged. When media pundit Dan Savage came across Torres’ Twitter account and invited to her to appear on his podcast, her Twitter following expanded.
You can see what Torres contends with everyday by taking a look at her Twitter timeline, and the question that probably comes to mind after reading is why? Why would you engage with folks who call you a murderer (among other things) who just want to argue and refuse to actually listen, who love to draw lines between abortion and slavery, abortion and the Holocaust, etc? (For every comparison to these, every time someone calls her legitimacy as a doctor into question, and other classic anti-choice trope, Torres puts one dollar towards funding abortions.)
Anti-choicers love to perpetuate misinformation – the false link between abortion and breast cancer, or “post abortion syndrome,” for example, as well as withhold actual facts. Torres knows she’s not going to change their minds, but sees them as a conduit for disseminating correct information to those who are following her. “When they claim many people commit suicide after an abortion, I say, no, and here’s a link, so then my followers have a link, something they can use in their own conversations and in their lives.” Followers will notice that Torres’ style of communication with antis is calm and measured, and this too is part of her strategy. “I’m using my doctor status for the greater good, and my integrity is on the line, which is everything to me. I’m civil and cordial, and committed to having a discussion.”
Another notable aspect of Torres’ tweeting is her use of the phrase “pregnant person,” as opposed to “pregnant woman.” It does the important work of reminding followers that it’s not just women who get pregnant, but trans folks as well, and that that narrative often gets omitted from the mainstream pro-choice rhetoric. For Torres, it can’t be said enough that the pregnant person is who gets purposely overlooked from the abortion conversation.
“You never see the pregnant person in focus in the anti-choice movement – it’s always a picture of the abdomen. It’s always about the fetus, and we have to bring it back to the pregnant person. Pregnancy changes your health,and so does giving birth, but we never talk about those risks; We minimize so much of what the pregnant person goes through, because we need to see pregnancy as natural, as the pregnant person’s job. The idea that taking on a risk to one’s health is a decision the pregnant person should have, that gets lost, and it’s because of the anti-choice rhetoric. They’ve done it on purpose, and it dehumanizes and criminalizes the people who are sacrificing the most. Until we start valuing pregnant people, conversations around abortion are going to continue being really hard.”
Finally, as we approach the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, things are looking less than awesome in the US for the future of abortion access, which risks making the historic legislation merely a technicality. I asked Torres her thoughts on how the pro-choice movement can move out of the dark place it’s in, and she wasn’t afraid to take the movement to task.
“We need to hold the media accountable, because they aren’t doing their part in providing facts. The Utah government recently took away funding from Planned Parenthood based on the misinformation in the videos. That’s 30,000 people’s lives affected because the legislature made a decision based on media that reported false information.
I think there’s also this idea in the abortion rights movement that if you don’t have a uterus, you don’t have a say, and that’s not helpful. White, straight men need to speak up, to say to the white men who are making the laws, ‘You’re an idiot.’ We need people without uteri to be on our side, we need everybody. Stop acting like we can do this on our own. We can’t. We’ve been doing it for 40 years and it’s not working.”