As human rights are at an all-time high for debate, the fight for women’s rights is a priority for journalist and filmmaker, Asha Dahya. Her goal: to humanize the talk around abortions and reproductive rights. Asha was once herself a deep evangelical Christian who considered abortion a sin. Though, very devoted to her community, she faced struggles of her own. Her life brought her to a crossroads between the very thing she disagreed with. She knew for her own sake that she must make the best decision for herself but why did the choices and views of them have to be so radically black and white?
In her campaign to advocate for a different narrative, Asha is creating a docuseries. Her series will cover topics such as; sex ed, birth control, paid leave, maternal mortality, and more. She seeks to normalize the conversation and to find the disconnect between women who seek abortions but then turn their backs to the clinics in front of the public eye. She talks to women on each side of the spectrum about looking beyond pro life vs pro choice and finding common ground. What makes her series different, is her own journey of challenging beliefs and opening her mind to seeing all sides of a situation.
In a discussion with her, Asha shared a bit about her life and what brought her out of the church and into an activist role.
What was the catalyst for removing yourself from the evangelical Christian community?
The main thing was going through a divorce. I was in a marriage that started to become abusive and very toxic. The person I was married to was secretly battling an addiction which he was in denial about, but which affected every area of our lives and I bore the brunt, being his wife. It took a LONG time for me to get the courage to separate and then eventually decide to divorce him. In the Evangelical world, getting divorced is considered a sin. You are “supposed” to work it out no matter what. We tried counseling, but it didn’t work.
After deciding to go through the divorce, I chose to step away from all my church involvements (bible study, being on the worship team) and then moving out of our marital home into a different area became the last straw in terms of leaving the church.
The worst part was that nobody from that church called or followed up with me to see where I had gone, or why I had left. It was a 5000 member church, and I was a very dedicated member. It’s not like I was someone invisible who no one noticed. I was literally on stage every Friday night singing in the band. While I still have some deep hurt and anger about that place, I realize it was the best decision, as I have since moved on and found a much better community and people who care about me in a genuine way - not contingent on me following any sort of religious rules.
This is key here because as I mentioned in my crowdfunding video, many of us claimed to follow the rules and openly supported them, but in secret, it was a different story. Why are so many women secretly getting abortions, but don’t support funding and protecting the clinics they are glad to go to when they need them? This disconnect is what I want to address as part of my docu-series project, and hopefully show audiences there is room for more conversation that brings both pro-life and pro-choice together. People’s lives are at stake, but are we doing everything in our power to ensure they are protected and supported or are we stubbornly holding onto our views to appear right?
Do you have a "stance" on abortion? Or do you find the word "stance" to be problematic in and of itself?
I think the stance is problematic, yes. We live in a country where literally only 2 choices have been presented - pro-choice or pro-life. Life is far too complex to push our perspective into such a narrow binary. There is a narrative that if you are “pro-choice”, it means you don’t believe in preserving or protecting life. That is so untrue. The conservative side shouldn’t get to hold the monopoly on the word “life” because we have seen many instances where supporting life is not on their agenda - supporting DACA recipients, CHIP recipients, those losing Medicaid and life-saving health insurance via the ACA, and many others. Also, what about the lives of the mothers in this country dying from childbirth and birth-related complications? America has the highest maternal mortality in the world and it is rising. For black women, the rates are 3-4 times higher. Why is this not a “life” issue in the same way abortion is?
The way I see it, we should not go back to making all abortion illegal. That doesn’t reduce rates, it only makes it unsafe, and ends up criminalizing women. Look at El Salvador right now - 17 women are in jail with a 30-year sentence for having miscarriages because they were “suspected” of having an abortion. This is what will happen in the US, make no mistake.
Abortion should be safe, legal, accessible and regulated. We should also, at the same time, work to reduce unintended pregnancy rates and work our asses off to protect women and children because your zip code or bank account shouldn’t determine what kind of healthcare, support systems, and future you have access to.
How do you envision this series evolving, any networks, in particular, you'd love to see it on?
I plan on filming the pilot episode once I raise the money from my crowdfunding campaign, and I will use this to pitch to networks and production companies. I would love to see it on Netflix or HBO! There are a few others I have on my wishlist, but at the core of it, my goal is to make a compelling, interesting and challenging series that will open hearts and minds toward a more nuanced and compassionate view on abortion and reproductive rights.
Overall, Asha’s agenda is to make a shift in the perspectives on abortion and women’s reproductive rights from a political discussion to a discussion that is more human and fact-based. She is an empowered woman ready to make an impact one talk at a time!