Ashley Judd writes heartfelt letter on her 'first Mother's Day without my mama'

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

    (CNN) -- Ashley Judd honored her late mother, country icon Naomi Judd, in an intimate essay about maternal health and safety for USA Today on Friday.

Naomi Judd, a five-time Grammy winner, died by suicide last week after a longtime struggle with anxiety and depression. In her essay, actress and political activist Ashley Judd described the feeling of being "umoored" by her mother's unexpected death.

She also discussed her mother's own lifelong struggles, including "an unintended pregnancy at age 17" which "led her down a road familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence."

Ashley Judd related her mother's experiences to maternal health issues throughout the world, touching on the high maternal death rates in the United States, particularly among Black women, and the prevalence of obstetric fistulas in South Sudan.

She also appeared to reference renewed debates over abortion rights, though did not address it explicitly. "Motherhood should always be a choice," Ashley Judd wrote. "Does that sound radical to you?"

"This Mother's Day, I choose to honor my mama for the person she was, a mother and so much more," Judd wrote. "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," she wrote.

Ashley Judd also penned an emotional tribute to her mother on Instagram on Tuesday.

"Your outpouring is reaching me. Thank you for every thought, prayer, message, text, email, post, expression," she wrote on Instagram."We each are alone and we are in fellowship, broken and held, protected from nothing and sustained in everything. It's the beginning of an old story, life and death, loss and life."

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