Abortion rights activist fundraises over $1M thanks to Gaetz’s body-shaming comments

Story at a glance

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) publicly criticized abortion while describing abortion rights activists as overweight and unattractive. 

  • He then took to Twitter and used a photo of activist Olivia Julianna to further lambast abortions. 

  • Julianna responded to Gaetz’s criticisms by fundraising over $1 million for abortion funds across the U.S. 

An abortion rights activist was body-shamed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), and she took the insult as an opportunity to fundraise, garnering over $1 million in donations to abortion funds. 

On July 23, Gaetz spoke during the Turning Point Action Summit in Florida and lambasted abortion access, saying women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions.  

He continued by describing abortion activists as overweight, unattractive and very unlikely to need an abortion.  

Gaetz then took to Twitter to further address the issue, posting a photo of 19-year-old activist Olivia Julianna. However, Julianna was quick to respond to her image being used.  

“Am I not a little too old for you Matt? I know you have a thing for targeting teenagers but 19 is on the cusp don’t you think?” 

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That’s in reference to a federal investigation the congressman is currently facing, after reports surfaced alleging that the House Republican may have committed several crimes, including the sex trafficking of a minor. He also may have violated the Mann Act, which bars the transportation of prostitutes between states or countries. Gaetz has denied all charges. 

The spat between Gaetz and Julianna resulted in the 19-year-old activist receiving hateful messages on social media. But she took the opportunity to fundraise for Gen-Z for Change, a nonprofit advocating for abortion rights, climate change and other political issues, and where Julianna is a political strategist. 

Within less than a week, Julianna has raised $1.5 million for the Gen-Z for Choice Abortion Fund. The money will be split evenly among 50 local abortion funds across the U.S. 

In a statement posted to her Twitter account, Julianna revealed she has struggled with eating disorders and body images issues her entire life and that Gaetz’s comments on women were, “reprehensible, disgusting and outright despicable.” 

“But I am glad he directed his bigotry in my direction. We have now turned hatred into healthcare, and people across the country will be able to get access to abortion services because of it.” 

Liza Fuentes, senior research scientist at Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights policy and advocacy group, noted that Julianna’s fundraising is a historic feat. On Twitter, Fuentes explained that the National Network of Abortion Funds distributed $9.4M in 2020—and Julianna raised 10 percent of that within a matter of days. 

“This means that a bunch of people who would simply have not gotten their abortions now will.” 

When asked to comment on Julianna’s fundraising feat, Gaetz’s office told Changing America that, “With Roe v. Wade overturned, America is now a pro-life nation. No amount of solicitations will change that.” 

One of the recipients of Gen-Z for Change’s fundraising will be the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, who publicly thanked Julianna and the thousands of donors who donated in the past few days. The group highlighted that Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban in place, which could result in many people needing to take time off work, manage childcare and pay for gas and lodging if they need an abortion beyond what the state’s law permits. 

Abortion procedures alone can cost up to $750, but some states allow insurance providers to cover the expense. However, as more and more states enact restrictive abortion laws, the cost of a wanted abortion will rise as people resort to traveling out-of-state to get the care they need.