For Mark Ruffalo, the battle over women's reproductive rights hits very close to home. Writing about his pro-choice stance in an open letter for an abortion rights rally in Jackson, Miss., on Aug. 17, the Avengers actor, 45, reveals why he's so passionate about protecting a woman's right to choose — because his mom, Marie Rose Ruffalo, didn't have that right.
"I am a man. I could say this has nothing to do with me. Except I have two daughters and I have a mother who was forced to illegally have an abortion in her state where abortion was illegal when she was a very young woman," he writes in the letter, posted by pro-choice organization Stop Patriarchy.
"It cost $600 cash," he continues of the procedure. "It was a traumatizing thing for her. It was shameful and sleazy and demeaning. When I heard the story I was aghast by the lowliness of a society that would make a woman do that. I could not understand its lack of humanity; today is no different."
"What happened to my mother was a relic of an America that was not free nor equal nor very kind," he notes of the U.S. before the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. "My mother's illegal abortion marked a time in America that we have worked long and hard to leave behind. It was a time when women were seen as second-rate citizens who were not smart enough, nor responsible enough, nor capable enough to make decisions about their lives. It was a time that deserved to be left behind, and leave it behind we did, or so it seemed."
Ruffalo — married since 2000 to actress Sunrise Coigney, with whom he has three kids, son Keen and daughters Bella and Odette — goes on to note that making abortion "legal and available on demand" in the 1970s was a sign of progress. Enacting legislation to restrict women's access, he says, is a step in the wrong direction.
"My own mother fought to make herself more than a possession; she lived her life as a mother who chose when she would have children, and a wife who could earn a living if she so chose. I want my daughters to enjoy that same choice," he writes. "I don't want to turn back the hands of time to when women shuttled across state lines in the thick of night to resolve an unwanted pregnancy, in a cheap hotel room just south of the state line. Where a transaction of $600 cash becomes the worth of a young woman's life."
"I actually trust the women I know," he continues. "I trust them with their choices, I trust them with their bodies, and I trust them with their children. I trust that they are decent enough and wise enough and worthy enough to carry the right of Abortion and not be forced to criminally exercise that Right at the risk of death or jail time."