Mother’s Day can open a whole host of wounds, whether you’re battling infertility, mourning a lost pregnancy or child, or grieving the loss of your own mother. This weekend, actor Ashley Judd faced her first Mother’s Day without her mom, Naomi Judd, 76, who died tragically on April 30th.
The legendary singer took her life just a day before she was given an award by the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ashley, 54, and her sister Wynona, 57, tearfully accepted the prize on their mother’s behalf.
Judd, who has served as United Nations Population Fund's Goodwill Ambassador since 2016, published a moving, strongly-worded essay in USA Today in which she shares her mother’s story in an appeal for justice for all women.
In the statement announcing her mother’s death, Judd wrote that Naomi succumbed “to the disease of mental illness,” and in her USA Today essay, she also attributes her death to “the wounds she carried from a lifetime of injustices that started when she was a girl. Because she was a girl.”
In light of the leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which will result in abortion bans throughout much of the American South, Judd explains that her mother’s first pregnancy was forced, and turned her toward a life of struggle.
“Motherhood happened to her without her consent,” wrote Judd. “She experienced an unintended pregnancy at age 17, and that led her down a road familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence.”
Judd enumerates the ways that mothers are still made to suffer, from a lack of supports like paid leave to a high rate of maternal mortality in the U.S, particularly acute among Black and Indigenous women. And she urges us not to forget the mothers lost to the “violence and despair” of suicide, homicide, and drug overdose.
“Motherhood should always be a choice,” Judd powerfully concludes. “Does that sound radical to you? Does that sound like I wish my sister and I hadn’t been born? If that’s what you think, I will gladly direct my incandescent rage at you.”
Judd describes her mother as “a legend,” but explains “she had to fight like hell to overcome the hand she was dealt, to earn her place in history.”
“This Mother’s Day, I choose to honor my mama for the person she was, a mother and so much more,” Judd writes. She asks readers to honor their own mothers “by demanding a world where motherhood, everywhere, is safe, healthy – and chosen.