As “The Handmaid’s Tale” wraps up its fifth season, star Madeline Brewer reflects is opening up about why she decided to go public earlier this year to reveal she had an abortion.
Brewer, who plays fierce Handmaid Janine on the show, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how her character’s abortion storyline in a flashback sequence inspired her to share her own personal experience after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June.
“When I filmed Janine’s scenes where she was getting an abortion and being manipulated by these crisis pregnancy centres, Roe v. Wade was still intact,” she explained.
“But having that storyline was actually a really incredible grieving process for me for my own abortion that I spoke about online in June after the overturn of Roe,” she added. “People talk about how much they love Janine and how much Janine has inspired them, and it felt important to me to talk about my own experience.”
As Brewer explained, it’s absurd to think that every woman who seeks to end a pregnancy has an identical experience.
“There’s no one way to tell why someone would get an abortion because there’s no one way a woman or a person decides to have an abortion,” she said.
“I do feel like sometimes we talk about it like it’s one thing: ‘Oh, that was the abortion storyline.’ But there are thousands upon thousands of reasons why even one individual would decide it’s not right for them. And for me, it was the very singular fact that I was not ready,” she continued.
Brewer also referenced an essay she wrote for Self about her abortion.
“I wanted people to know how common it is and also how much we are shamed into keeping quiet about it. So many people were talking about the medical reasons someone might need an abortion and I completely agree. But I also wanted to speak to the fact that I had an abortion because I did not want a child. Because I was not ready for a child,” she said.
“Ten years later, I’m still not ready,” she admitted. “I still wouldn’t be able to give a child the life and the love and the attention that they would deserve. And I wanted to speak to that.”
Brewer credits re-experiencing her own abortion through Janine’s storyline for giving her the impetus to come forward.
“Janine made a decision for her own child and her own life, and I made a decision completely for my own life, and to be on set [filming that], I think that was part of [why I spoke out],” she said.
“I think perhaps if I hadn’t been working on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ at the time, if I wasn’t in Toronto and living inside Janine’s mind, I don’t know that I would have talked about it online,” she noted. “But when I’m working on this show, I’m deeply connected to Janine. She is a woman that I admire more than anybody, and she gave me the strength to talk about something that I’ve been whispering about for nine years.”