4000 Years for Choice develops visual narratives about the practices of contraception and abortion from around the world for the past 4000 years. The project hopes to celebrate, inspire, and empower women and men in their reproductive lives!
My poster series “4000 Years for Choice” presents abortion and contraception as part of our grand human history. I highlight stories about abortive herbs, such as Artemisia, pennyroyal, aloe vera, and Queen Anne’s lace, tell stories about contraceptive devices, such as condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, cervical caps, and quote sentiments from notable figures, such as Plato, Socrates, Casanova, Emma Goldman, and Madame Restelle. My use of historical images seeks to replace to the iconic “wire coat hanger” used by the pro-choice movement for decades. Each poster conveys a positive word, such as love, embrace, bless, sing, and celebrate, as a means to critique the feminist battle cry of “fight, struggle, and defend.” Finally, I seek opportunities to present my work in community spaces such as art galleries, college campuses, and women’s health clinics, rather than in legislative centers where politics rule. “4000 Years for Choice” is our story; a story of women’s reproductive empowerment, wisdom, and self-care that dates back a millennium. I believe all people need to know this information, regardless of their position; whether they identify as pro-choice, pro-life, or somewhere in the middle. Without knowledge of this history, we as Americans cannot fully understand women’s deeply ingrained desire to control pregnancies for the good of ourselves, our relationships, and our families. Without this knowledge, we are in the dark.
The graphic series “Reproductive Roots” critiques the mainstream, political talking points found in the pro-choice movement by providing visual representations of inspiring, positive messages. I call this framing “To Do” vs “Ta Da”. National pro-choice organizations such speak in terms of “To Do” steps, such as ‘Stop the war on women”, “Stand with Planned Parenthood”, “Keepyour rosaries off my ovaries”, and “Never go back” that appear in abortion rights slogans. This is the story of a battle-ground, where war-like language is used to motivate people into action. Rather, why not tell a story of abortion from the perspective of women’s hearts and minds? Why not focus on the inherent goodness in every woman’s reproductive journey? The graphics I create are the “Ta Da” because they highlight women’s stories of gratitude, thankfulness, and self-determination. I draw attention to contemporary journalists, bloggers, writers, and politicians who speak-out positively and affirmatively. I weave the ancient history into the graphic series to provide context and meaning. By posting the images on social media websites, many people have access to these messages and can like, share, and comment. As a matter of respect, I do not delete anti-choice comments as I feel they add to the richness of the conversation, sharpen our critical thinking skills, and raise our compassion for each other.
Heather Ault is an award-winning artist, researcher, and activist for abortion rights and reproductive justice. As founder of 4000 Years for Choice, she created a dynamic visual art series devoted to re-visioning the historical and cultural narrative of abortion and contraception. Since the project’s initial launch in 2009, Heather has presented her artwork and research at art galleries, national conferences, university campuses, and reproductive health clinics across the country. Her work has been written about in the Huffington Post, New York Daily News, Bust Magazine, and many other blogs. Heather is a board member of the Abortion Conversation Project and also serves as Social Media Coordinator for the Abortion Care Network. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Master of Fine Arts in New Media and is based in Urbana, Illinois.
I am an artist, graphic designer, researcher, and activist. I am committed to creating positive, empowering visual images, history, and language about reproductive health, rights, and justice on behalf of the millions of women like me – women who have had abortions. This is my story. This is my passion. This is my life.