You might not think body-shaming teenagers is behavior that’s in line with what a United States congressman should do, but Rep. Matt Gaetz did just that over the weekend. Unfortunately for him, his harassment backfired when the teen in question used it to fuel her activism and raise a sizeable sum for abortion funds nationwide.
Matt Gaetz, who is currently under federal investigation for sex trafficking a minor, made a public speech about women who support abortion rights and how he believes they look—implying that if pro-choice women are ugly, they wouldn’t “need” an abortion.
“Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions?” Gaetz said to a group of young Republicans at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday. “Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.”
“These people are odious from the inside out,” Gaetz continued. “They’re like 5′ 2″, 350 pounds, and they’re like, ‘Give me my abortions or I’ll get up and march and protest.’”
Olivia Julianna, a 19-year-old activist, responded to the snide remarks on Sunday via Twitter: “I’m actually 5’11. 6’4 in heels. I wear them so small men like you are reminded of your place.”
“I was not surprised at the level of just outright misogyny and fatphobia that was being perpetuated,” Julianna told TODAY Parents. “So I tweeted a statement out being, like, a little sassy.”
Gaetz responded to Julianna by using her Twitter avatar to shame her appearance. (Reminder that this man is currently a sitting United States congressman in the state of Florida.)
Julianna faced an onslaught of right-wing harassment online after Gaetz singled her out. Despite the abuse, she decided to take the experience and use it as motivation to raise funds for abortion rights and services.
As of Wednesday morning, she’s raised more than $168,000 for abortion funds from over 22,000 donors all over the country. She’s also been thrust into the national spotlight while growing tons of new followers across her social media accounts.
“I wanted to highlight the positive work that I’m doing from this very negative sphere that I’ve been placed in,” she tells TODAY Parents. She tweeted out a link to the Gen Z For Change Abortion Fund, which distributes money to 50 different abortion funds across the U.S.
Julianna told Newsweek that Gaetz has “just learned a valuable lesson that should be echoed to every Republican who thinks about crossing or targeting me—don’t mess with Texas women. I’m not just a teenager, I’m an abortion rights activist and a political strategist—and a damn good one at that.”