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Pop vs Policy: Olivia Rodrigo’s Advocacy for Abortion Rights

Updated: Apr 23

During Glastonbury 2022, Olivia Rodrigo, a California native, used her platform (literally) to speak out against the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, a decision that jeopardised abortion access in America. She chose to make her views clear by singing a rendition of Lily Allen’s iconic ‘Fuck You’ and dedicating it to “the justices: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh. We hate you! We hate you.”

Although she was only 19 at the time, coming off her debut album, Rodrigo had the entire world’s eyes on her. By taking such a strong, unambiguous stance on a hot-button topic, she immediately set herself apart from other celebrities. Her activism continued during her sophomore album tour, where she announced the ‘fund 4 good’, a non-profit aimed at improving women’s access to healthcare, education, and a litany of other resources pertaining to reproductive health. While this might have pissed off a few misogynists, she was mostly met with very little backlash. After all, you can’t really go wrong with setting up a charity. Enter Plan B.

As mentioned previously, safe access to abortion is a cause close to Rodrigo’s heart. Naturally, she would choose to partner with the National Network of Abortion funds for this tour, even allowing them to hand out emergency contraceptives (EC) at her tour stop in Missouri. You know, the totally tolerant, democratic state that is in full support of people having autonomy over their bodies.

In case you’re not well-versed in American culture, that last sentence is completely false. Missouri is one of nearly 25 states to have placed restrictions on abortion access. To be more specific, getting an abortion is illegal there. Full stop. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that Rodrigo’s team put out a statement shortly after the concert, declaring that they were no longer allowing charities to hand out EC on tour stops. Even so, the charities would continue to have a booth with pamphlets and the like at each venue. So, all was not lost.

The reason cited was that children were present at her shows. Therefore, distributing these types of products would be inappropriate. While this is valid logic, considering that Rodrigo has a majority demographic of Gen Z and/or Gen Alpha fans, I can’t help but think that there’s also some politics involved. After all, following her Missouri show, the Republican state senator tweeted that he believed Rodrigo was “actively harming women in Missouri by championing abortion” and that “She should be ashamed.”

Now let’s get one thing clear: Rodrigo was not handing out abortion pills, which are now banned in Missouri. Instead, the fund she partnered with was handing out Plan B and condoms—both measures used to prevent a pregnancy from occurring—rather than terminating it. In this sense, she was empowering her audience, mainly young women, to take charge of their sexual health. However, given the rampant politicisation of abortion rights, there was a very slim chance that this would be the prevailing narrative to come from her concert.

Historically speaking, men have felt the need to dictate what should happen to women’s bodies. For example, in 1910, abortion was banned in America, with any medical exceptions being decided by doctors (95% of whom were male). By 1930, illegal abortions were the cause of 1 out of 5 maternal deaths. Coincidence? Not in the slightest. Having a child alters your life fundamentally. As a result, people who aren’t given a choice in this matter are forced to take desperate measures.

This is not simply conjecture; we can even see the pattern repeating itself today. According to a 2023 report, “maternal mortality rates in states with bans was "significantly higher" than in supportive states.” Although specific numbers are hard to pin down, it is undeniable that people in anti-abortion states are suffering due to the harsh legislation. What’s more, people of colour, who are more likely to be living in poor socioeconomic conditions and thus unable to provide for a child, are disproportionately affected by abortion restrictions. 

Consequently, they are forced to decide whether to put their child into the system, which raises a whole host of other dilemmas, or do the best with what they have. Neither scenario is ideal for the child or the parent. As such, the argument that pro-lifers are only ‘thinking about the kids’ is entirely false. If that were actually the case, they would consider what life would be like for them beyond being born. Hence, Rodrigo’s desire to speak out on this issue is vital as it can help raise awareness of these facts and initiate change.

Living in the spotlight means Rodrigo has enormous influence, some of which extends beyond her fanbase. She went viral and hit the headlines when she took a stand at Glastonbury. Now, two years on, she continues to use her celebrity to fight the good fight.

Image: The White House

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