Olivia Julianna: The 20-Year-Old Changing the Conversation Around Abortion

Her first protest

I was so overwhelmed with this loss of justice. I just had to stand up and do something.

It was a clear summer day when Olivia took to the plaza in front of her university in Bloomington, Indiana. Alongside her sister, she held two signs that read, This is a miscarriage and Abortion is legal, why aren’t we? – an attempt to start a conversation about abortion on campus where it wasn’t being discussed. She felt at peace as she spoke one on one with other students who shared their personal experiences, but she became discouraged when no one joined them in protest by day’s end.

Her school education

Julianna graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts in May. Her five years at the school allowed her to study history, English, comparative religion and political science while she had free reign to explore other topics through internships at various departments on campus. It was during her senior year when she became hyperaware of reproductive rights as a woman and learned about Planned Parenthood for the first time. After graduation, Julianna intends to work for an abortion fund that has served as a role model and given her purpose since she learned about its work on YouTube. She also hopes to grow this movement among young people so that this level of awareness continues into more campuses across America.

Inspired by recent protests

She’s already won a national award for her activism, and will be speaking in front of millions at the March for Our Lives. Now, this 20-year-old is also making headlines for something else. Her name is Olivia Julianna, and she’s done what no one has done before – by going after one of Trump’s allies in Congress.

In a video that’s been viewed over 200K times on Facebook, Olivia called out Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and demanded to know his stance on abortion rights. Olivia founded a chapter of Emerge USA in her hometown and was attending an anti-abortion rally with Matt Gaetz when she decided to try to get an answer from him live on camera.

Called out Rep. Matt Gaetz at an event

Two days before the House vote on the Republican health care plan, Olivia Julianna, a 20-year-old junior at UCLA and political director of Bruins for Reproductive Justice (BRJ), rushed onstage during a televised panel discussion about Representative Matt Gaetz. After receiving student approval from BRJ’s executive board to interrupt Gaetz’s appearance, she calmly approached him as he fielded questions from CNN host Brooke Baldwin. Can you please respond to why you’re voting on something that would allow states to make abortion inaccessible? she asked him.

Gaetz replied by emphasizing his pro-life views and denying any intention of making abortion unavailable. I don’t think anyone who voted on this is trying to prevent abortions, he said.

How does she raise money?

The Gaetz campaign started after a brief exchange on Twitter between Julianna and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) when he introduced a bill banning abortion if a heartbeat can be detected.

This is just wrong on so many levels, she tweeted, linking to his statement announcing the introduction of his Heartbeat Bill.

In response, he asked for proof that she could get pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy — and then she did something unprecedented.

After months of watching news coverage unfold in disgust at the repeated attacks on women’s reproductive rights, her frustration boiled over when Congress was debating abortion yet again in front of 2020 election cameras.

What she hopes to achieve

Olivia’s main goal is to stop people from viewing abortion as a criminal act and to move people past having knee jerk reactions to graphic depictions of what an abortion looks like. No one who has walked in those shoes should be subjected to stigma or shame, she said.

I hope that these stories can dispel myths, empower others, and encourage them not be afraid of opening up, she said. I want people to see that we are not just one issue.

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