Ashley penned an essay for USA Today about spending her first Mother’s Day without her mother, and about “making motherhood safe and healthy.” The actor is also a global goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health agency, as well as to ending gender-based violence.
In the piece, Judd called her mother Naomi “a legend,” adding, “She was an artist and a storyteller, but she had to fight like hell to overcome the hand she was dealt, to earn her place in history. She shouldn’t have had to fight that hard to share her gifts with the world.”
On Sunday, May 1, just one day after Naomi Judd’s passing, Ashley stood beside her sister Wynonna in a tear-filled ceremony as The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ricky Skaggs put the Hall of Fame medallion around Wynonna’s neck, while Ashley held up the medallion meant for Naomi.
“This Sunday is abruptly, shockingly, my first Mother’s Day without my mama,” Judd wrote in the essay. “She died just hours before her peers at the Country Music Hall of Fame could demonstrate to her how much they esteem her. She died just days before my sister and I could show her again how much we love and honor her. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was supposed to visit her on Sunday, to give her a box of old-fashioned candy, our family tradition. We were supposed to have sweet delight in each others’ easy presence. Instead, I am unmoored. But my heart is not empty. It is replete with gratitude for what she left behind. Her nurture and tenderness, her music and memory.”
Judd also expressed that alongside that gratitude, “My heart is filled with something else, too. Incandescent rage. Because my mother was stolen from me by the disease of mental illness, by the wounds she carried from a lifetime of injustices that started when she was a girl. Because she was a girl. My mama was an extraordinary parent under duress: She showed my sister and me the power of having a voice and using it, and there has been no greater lesson. But motherhood happened to her without her consent. 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.”
Ashley also shared several statistics regarding childbirth and motherhood, including that “Every day, more than 800 women die in pregnancy and childbirth from causes for which solutions are affordable and achievable.” She also noted that the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world.
Ashley’s USA Today piece concluded, “This Mother’s Day, I choose to honor my mama for the person she was, a mother and so much more. And I ask you to honor your own mother, if you are lucky enough to have her. Honor her for more than her labor and sacrifice. Honor her for her talents and dreams. Honor her by demanding a world where motherhood, everywhere, is safe, healthy – and chosen.”