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19-year-old activist raises more than $200,000 for abortion funds after she was targeted by Matt Gaetz

The Florida congressman targeted Olivia Julianna after she criticised his misogynistic remarks about abortion rights advocates. In response, she raised tens of thousand of dollars for abortion care

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 27 July 2022 19:07 BST
Matt Gaetz says only unattractive women are worried about abortion rights

When Republican Rep Matt Gaetz singled out a 19-year-old activist after he was widely criticised for his admittedly offensive remarks about abortion rights advocates, the Texas teenager and organiser used the attention to raise tens of thousands of dollars for abortion funds.

The Florida congressman was unapologetic in his overtly misogynistic and fatphobic remarks to a right-wing student conference in Florida over the weekend, asserting that “disgusting” women who “look like a thumb” have the “least likelihood of getting pregnant” and have no reason to support abortion rights.

“Like, why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?” he told a crowd at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa on 23 July. “No one wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”

He continued: “These people are odious on the inside and out. They’re like, 5’2”, 350 pounds, like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’ And I’m thinking – march? You look like you got ankles weaker than the legal reasoning behind Roe v Wade. A few of them need to get up and march. They need to get up and march for like an hour a day. Swing those arms, get the blood pumping, maybe mix in a salad.”

On Twitter, 19-year-old activist Olivia Julianna blasted his remarks, saying, “I’m actually 5’11. 6’4 in heels. I wear them so small men like you are reminded of your place.”

She also mentioned that the Florida congressman faces a federal investigation following allegations of sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl.

On TikTok, where Olivia Julianna has more than 260,000 followers, her video criticising Mr Gaetz’s speech has been viewed more than 1 million times.

In his apparent response on Twitter, Mr Gaetz shared an article from a right-wing media outlet that described his remarks as “sure to raise [the] dander of his political opponents” and included a photo of Olivia Julianna.

“Dander raised…” he wrote to his more than 1.4 million followers.

On 25 July, Olivia Julianna announced a fundraising campaign on behalf of Gen Z for Change, a youth-led organising group that supports abortion rights through its Gen-Z for Choice Abortion Fund.

Within hours, she raised more than $50,000. By Wednesday afternoon, donations reached nearly $250,000.

The donations will be shared among 50 abortion funds across the US in states threatened by anti-abortion laws enacted in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion care.

“Dear Matt, although your intentions were hateful, your public shaming of my appearance has done nothing but benefit me,” she wrote. “Your hateful comments towards me will quite literally help pay for abortion services.”

The activist also accused the congressman of directing his followers to harass her.

“This is what happens when a sitting Republican congressman body shames and blasts you on social media,” she wrote alongside a screenshot of an explicit message she received after the congressman targeted her in his post. “This is the Republican Party. These are their leaders.”

After his remarks drew widespread condemnation, his spokesperson told The Independent that his speech “speaks for itself.”

When asked by another reporter whether he believed people who attended abortion rights rallies were “ugly and overweight” and if he had a response to people who were offended by his speech, he replied: “Be offended.”

The congressman was among 195 House Republicans who voted against a bill to protect the right to access contraception on 21 July. (Only eight Republicans voted in support.)

He also joined 209 House Republicans who voted against the Women’s Health Protection Act – which would codify a right to abortion care – on 15 July.

Mr Gaetz also voted against the Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which would protect the right of abortion patients who live in states that have outlawed or severely restricted care to travel to other states without risking prosecution or legal action in their home states.

Only three Republicans joined all Democrats in support.

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