Hollywood star Ashley Judd has opened up about being a "three-time rape survivor" who would have had to co-parent with one of her attackers if she didn't have an abortion.
The actress, humanitarian and #MeToo activist was speaking on Thursday at the 10th Women in the World Summit in New York City.
The annual event features speeches and panel discussions that address the central question, "Can Women Save the World?"
Judd addressed Georgia's new abortion bill passed last month which bans the procedure if a fetal heartbeat is detected even though that can happen before a woman realises she's pregnant, reports news.com.au.
"As everyone knows, and I'm very open about it, I'm a three-time rape survivor," Judd said.
"One of the times that I was raped there was conception.
"And I'm very thankful I was able to access safe and legal abortion. Because the rapist, who is a Kentuckian, as am I, and I reside in Tennessee, has paternity rights in Kentucky and Tennessee. I would've had to co-parent with my rapist."
Judd said that "having safe access to abortion was personally important" to her but
that she was concerned other women in a similar position wouldn't have that option under restrictive anti-abortion measures.
"We're not supposed to regulate what we choose to do with our insides," she said.
"Democracy starts at my skin.
"The reach of the state stops at my body. And that includes the folks who are in elected power."
In March this year, Judd added her name to a letter shared by actress Alyssa Milano in protest of the bill. The letter also received support from stars including Debra Messing, Mandy Moore, Amy Schumer, Ben Stiller and Don Cheadle. At the summit, panel moderator Katie Couric described the bill as "starting to feel a little like The Handmaid's Tale"."
Judd has spoken publicly about her abortion in the past, as well as her experiences with sexual assault and harassment.
In her 2011 memoir, All That Is Bitter & Sweet, Judd revealed she was subjected to sexual abuse from a young age. In the book, she relived memories of being raped in 1984 by an older man in her hometown and then later by a family friend. Then, when she was a teenager working as a model in Japan, Judd was raped by another adult.
"There was a creepy Frenchman who hung out at the bar … He offered me a ride home," she wrote. "I was so young and confused that I had no idea that what followed was rape."
She never publicly named her rapists but was one of the first A-listers to accuse Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. Judd was one of several actresses who went on the record for a New York Times expose on Weinstein in 2017. But according to Judd, it wasn't the first time she spoke out about it.
"I told the story of Harvey's sexual harassment of me the moment after it happened," she said at the summit. "My dad was with me and I came down to the hotel lobby and he still says to this day that he could tell from the look on my face that something devastating had happened … I told everybody about it, but no one was able or willing to listen. That was in June 1996."
Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct dating back decades by more than 75 women but denies the allegations. He has been charged with five counts of sexual abuse, including rape, and pleaded not guilty. He will stand trial in New York later this year.
Judd filed a civil case against Weinstein in April last year, in which she alleged that he convinced director Peter Jackson and his partner not to cast her after she was tricked into going into the disgraced Hollywood director's hotel and rejected his sexual advances.
In a motion to dismiss Judd's case, Weinstein's lawyers said that the producer's conduct at the hotel did not amount to sexual harassment because it was "not severe and persuasive", that the pair had no legal employer-employee relationship and that the claims were barred by the statute of limitations.
Court documents show the incident took place on one day about 20 years ago, where he showed up in a bathrobe, asked her to watch him shower, choose his clothes, and propositioned her with a massage. Judd said she had responded to his request to see her in the room because she thought it was going to be a business meeting.
Once inside, Judd said she deflected the producer's advances by saying she would let him touch her only after she won an Academy Award in one of his movies.
Her lawyers told the court this was a mock bargain designed to let her escape the room.
But Weinstein's lawyers claimed the deal was real.
In January this year, US District Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled that her relationship as an actress with the Hollywood producer was not covered under California law at the time, nor under a 2018 amendment made to include such relationships.
But in a footnote to the ruling, the judge said he was not determining whether Judd was sexually harassed by Weinstein "in the colloquial sense of the term".
He informed Judd that she could, however, proceed with a defamation claim in the civil suit.
Judd told the summit that the case wasn't over.
"Everybody's been talking about whether the sexual harassment piece has been dismissed, but it's actually going to be heard by the ninth circuit court of appeals," she said of the legal case. "And what that language is about is whether or not as a producer it was criminal for him to sexually harass me. It's not disputed whether or not he did, even he admits to that."
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