The actress and activist was giving the commencement speech at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, on Saturday when she recalled a recent experience with a Twitter follower. In a show of solidarity against Alabama’s abortion ban, Cox retweeted a tweet that read: “Woman’s body. Woman’s right to choose. End of story.”
One of Cox’s Twitter followers criticized the actress for retweeting the statement because it erased “trans brothers’ struggle in this fight” and pointed out that trans men can become pregnant as well. At first, Cox told the crowd of graduates, she became defensive.
“I said to myself: ‘Can we just have a moment where we keep this simple? There’s so much going on in the world right now and it is so complicated,’” she said.
“‘Can we have a moment for women? For women to be in solidarity with each other? Can I just be in solidarity with my sisters on this issue? Do we have to make it about all of the complicated nuances of the issue?’” Cox recalled thinking at the time.
Her initial reaction gave her pause, she said, adding that she quickly realized where she went wrong.
“As I continued to process, I thought, for the first time, ‘What if I were a transgender man?’ What if I were a transgender man… and for whatever reason I became pregnant unintentionally? If I were that trans man, I would really want to have language that incorporated and included my experience.”
Cox pointed out that language is often one of the most challenging parts of inclusivity.
“When we use language that excludes groups of people on pertinent issues, it can jeopardize their health and well-being,” she said. “Language that is appropriate and fully inclusive is a matter of life and death for so many people out there.”
“What this brought up for me is that as you go out into the world, you’re going to be faced with a lot of difficult decisions, a lot of things that will make you uncomfortable, that are complicated and nuanced issues. And sometimes you might just want to keep it simple,” she continued. “‘Can we focus on this part of the issue right now and just leave this out ― leave this group of people out?’ And what I would like to remind you of today is that when we are leaving people out, we are not really doing the work to be inclusive.”
Last week, Alabama passed the strictest abortion law in the country which criminalizes the procedure in all cases, including rape and incest. The only exception is if the life of a pregnant woman is at risk. Once the law goes into effect, performing an abortion procedure will become a felony offense punishable by a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Alabama is just the latest state to pass an extreme anti-abortion measure. Earlier this month, Georgia passed legislation banning abortion after six weeks ― a period in which most women don’t yet know they’re pregnant. Additionally, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi have all either passed or considered similar laws. Texas lawmakers are considering the death penalty for any woman who gets an abortion.
Watch Cox’s full commencement speech below.