Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar, Olivia Rodrigo and Megan Thee Stallion used the stage at Glastonbury Festival as their platform to vent.
Janelle Monae turned her presenting gig at the BET Awards into an opportunity to voice her concern.
Halsey spoke passionately during her live performances and artists including Pink, Lizzo and Eminem tweeted messages filled with fury, sadness, vows to keep fighting and financial pledges to Planned Parenthood.
Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade after 50 years, which negated the constitutional right to an abortion, netted a swift reaction from the music community.
Some artists quickly spun their concern into new music: Ani DiFranco and Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard released “Disorders” and Promise of the Real’s Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) unveiled a harrowing ballad about a trio forced to have babies despite extreme circumstances such as incest and date rape.
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Artists tackling the topics of reproductive rights and abortion isn’t new. Some major mainstream hits – Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” Paul Anka’s “(You’re) Having My Baby,” the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Slide” – vary in their levels of blatant discussion about pregnancy.
Here are 10 songs that delve into the emotions associated with reproductive decisions. From regret to relief, fear to anger, they are all complicated:.
Cyndi Lauper, ‘Sally’s Pigeons’ (1993)
Lauper’s striking voice colors the true tale about her childhood friend with a “pirate smile” who underwent a back-alley abortion and died as a result. Co-written with Mary Chapin Carpenter, the gently pulsing ballad from Lauper’s “Hat Full of Stars” album resonates with Lauper’s vivid storytelling: “She left one night with just a nod, was lost from some back-alley job / I close my eyes and Sally’s pigeons fly / She never saw those birds again.” Lauper rerecorded the song following the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Seals and Crofts, ‘Unborn Child’ (1974)
An anti-abortion presentation from Jim Seals and Dash Crofts, who previously scored immense radio play with “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl.” The title track to Seals & Crofts’ 1974 album damaged the duo’s popularity and stalled at No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 after many fans boycotted the release on radio. The jaunty brass and squealing guitar in the soft-rock song – based on a poem written by the wife of the group’s recording engineer – are sometimes incongruous to lyrics that include, “Oh unborn child, beginning to grow inside your momma, but you'll never know / Oh tiny bud, that grows in the womb, only to be crushed before you can bloom / Mama stop! Turn around, go back, think it over.” But there is no denying the group’s stance or sincerity.
Nicki Minaj, ‘All Things Go’ (2014)
The deeply personal opening track to the rapper’s 2014 album, “The Pinkprint,” unspools myriad personal struggles, including her fraught relationship with her mother, the 2011 murder of her cousin and ruminations on motherhood. In expressing her love for her younger brother Micaiah toward the end of her loping rap, Minaj references an abortion she had as a teenager, though she doesn’t offer details beyond the name of her partner at the time, “My child with Aaron would've have been 16 any minute … It's like he's 'Caiah's little angel, looking over him.”
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Amanda Shires, ‘The Problem’ (2020)
The haunting duet between Shires and husband Jason Isbell finds the couple swapping lyrics about the confusion and sorrow facing a young woman after she decides to have an abortion. “What do you want to do? I’m scared to even say the truth / This has been the hardest year / Is it even legal here?” they sing in the contemplative piano ballad, which also offers unyielding support (“It’s gonna be alright / I’m on your side”). In 2021, Shires released a modified version of the song to reflect her own experience of seeking an abortion. Called “Our Problem,” the alt-country track showcases Cyndi Lauper, Angie Stone, Sheryl Crow and other female artists.
Ben Folds Five, ‘Brick’ (1997)
An uncharacteristically somber song from the trio known for snappy, sardonic lyrics and pounding piano pop, “Brick” immediately courted attention. The song unpacks Folds’ jumbled feelings as he teeters between supporting his pregnant girlfriend through an abortion and his own ambivalence and feelings of guilt. “They call her name at 7:30, I pace around the parking lot / Then I walk down to buy her flowers,” he sings solemnly. Though the song attracted some controversy, it became the band’s biggest radio hit.
Sinead O’Connor, ‘My Special Child’ (1991)
The Irish songstress has spoken openly about her decision to seek an abortion in 1990 following a planned pregnancy. But the apathy shown by her partner solidified O’Connor’s choice. “I was left with the decision of whether or not to have the child, knowing that the father wasn’t going to be around. I decided that it was better not to and that I would have a child at a later stage when his father would be around and involved. I didn’t feel that I could handle it by myself,” she told Spin magazine in 1991. O’Connor’s lilting voice, strings and pennywhistle carry the song, while mournful bagpipes play behind her as she quietly sings, “You were precious to me, after all, I called you into being / I wanted you to know. Yes, you were precious to me.”
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Fleetwood Mac, ‘Sara’ (1979)
One could be forgiven for assuming Stevie Nicks was singing about a friend or muse with her mystically poetic lyrics. But in recent years, the Fleetwood Mac maven has disclosed that Sara was the name she’d assigned her unborn child with Don Henley, whom she was dating at the time. The couple determined they were not ready to have a child, leading to Nicks’ decision to have an abortion. The song, however, is only partially about the pregnancy, Nicks told Billboard: She was also friends with a Sara who became Mick Fleetwood’s wife.
Eminem, ‘River’ (2017)
On his 2017 album, “Revival,” Eminem is joined by Ed Sheeran in a loquacious song about cheating spouses. The rapper plays the role (he’s never confirmed if it’s a true story) of the other man who impregnates “Suzanne,” then tells her to end the pregnancy since they weren’t in an actual relationship. “I can't keep my lies straight / But I made you terminate my baby / This love triangle left us in a wreck, tangled,” Eminem raps with escalating intensity.
The Verve Pipe, ‘The Freshman’ (1997)
Once the ’90s band climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's alternative rock chart with this guitar-buzzer, the suddenly dissected lyrics were widely understood to imply suicide (“His girl took a week’s worth of Valium and slept”). But decades after the song’s breakthrough, singer Brian Vander Ark explained in an interview with American Songwriter that the first verse alludes to a girlfriend having an abortion – though he was never sure if he or a friend who was also dating her was the father. “Now I'm guilt stricken / Sobbing with my head on the floor / Stop a baby's breath and a shoe full of rice, no,” he sings.
Robyn, ‘Giving You Back’ (1999)
A personal account from the Swedish dance-pop singer who had an abortion a year before writing the introspective ballad for her “My Truth” album. “With you in me, I was beautiful / Two months of joy before the impossible / Every second I long for the day when you come back / come back to stay, when the time is right,” she offers. Fans might recall that her “My Truth” album was never officially released in the U.S. She explained to The New York Times in 2018 that the decision came partially because of her abortion-themed song. “You can’t really talk about stuff like that in America, or you couldn’t at the time,” she said. “Not if you were an 18-year-old pop star.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 10 songs about abortion that hit differently after Roe v. Wade repeal