* This was first published in the New York Times, “Room for Debate,” on June 30, 2013, amongst other opinions on the impact of women sharing their abortion stories.*
When I had an abortion it was safe, legal and covered by health insurance. I had no horror story to tell of a scary back-alley procedure, and I had no heartfelt regrets.
But the facts didn’t begin to describe my experience of having an abortion. My story was one of challenge and triumph, heartache and loss, friendship and family, and so much more. I wished I could have talked about it, without my story being used to promote abortion rights or to help dismantle them. Instead, I wanted to join with others to create a conversation rooted in the diverse, complicated lives of the women and men who’d experienced abortion.
It’s crucial that a range of experiences — from remorse to hope — are heard and understood in all nuances, no matter the political outcome.
That conversation is starting to happen. More women, and some men, are sharing their intimate experiences in private and public ways. One result is that the myths and stereotypes of who has abortions are beginning to crumble in the face of true stories. Another result is that women and men who’ve experienced abortion are now able to find and connect with each other. Feeling supported and comforted after an abortion, instead of isolated and alone, goes a long way toward healing and well-being.
But, sharing abortion stories isn’t all warm and fuzzy. There are real risks for the woman and for this emerging conversation about abortion in our lives.
A woman who shares about an abortion experience with family or friends can put her relationships in jeopardy. And, while social media can connect people by spreading stories quickly, a woman can lose control of her story – and her message – as it moves across the Internet. These risks can be mitigated with community support, but it’s hard to build community without first taking a risk.
My worst fear is that our personal stories will become commodities in the political marketplace, casualties in the conflict over abortion that get repackaged to benefit one side or other of the debate.
That’s why it’s so crucial that the full range of personal experiences women and men have with abortion — from remorse to hope — are able to be heard and understood in all their layers and nuances no matter the political outcome.
Posted in I believe, I think | Tagged Abortion, New York Times, ProVoice, Room for Debate | Leave a Comment »
I was honored to be a part of the closing plenary of Netroots Nation 2013 in San Jose, California on June 22, 2013. The plenary was a series of speakers using the Ignite model: 5 minutes, 20 slides progressing automatically every 15 seconds. I was stoked to be the first woman speaker amongst many of my heroes and role models. I am particularly grateful to Jenifer Fernandez Ancona for being my champion.
Posted in I believe, I did | Leave a Comment »
*This was first published on Storycenter, the blog of the Center for Digital Storytelling*
“We are wary of listening to stories that we think are being told to manipulate our emotions or push us to believe a certain way,” said Francesca Polletta, author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics in a phone call with me last year. “On the other hand,” she says, “ambivalent stories, stories with no clear moral agenda, invite the listener to imagine themselves in the story. True engagement happens when the listener can see multiple outcomes for a story and is able to come to their own conclusions.” Continue Reading »
Posted in I think | Tagged Abortion, Emotions, Exhale, ProVoice, Storysharing, Storytelling | Leave a Comment »
I am excited to announce that I have signed a contract with Berrett Koelher to write a book on pro-voice, scheduled for publication in 2015.
Exhale’s Press Release:
Aspen Baker, Founder and Executive Director of nonprofit organization Exhale, announced that she has signed a contract with San Francisco based Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., to publish her first book. “Pro-Voice” is scheduled for publication in 2015.
Pro-voice, the term coined by Baker’s organization Exhale in 2005, is an alternative approach to discussing abortion and other conflicted issues. In her book, Ms. Baker shows how the model makes the impossible, possible, but it’s not what you expect. Ms. Baker will take us behind the scenes of what it takes to change highly charged issues, like abortion, and inspire readers with true stories and tested methods.
“Berrett-Koehler,” say Neal Maillett, Editorial Director, “has long been an admirer of Exhale and Aspen Baker. Frankly, we’ve been amazed that she can prove that the values central to so many of our books – deep listening, tolerance, and empathy to name a few – can actually bring insight and understanding to the one of the sharpest conflicts we have as human beings. Aspen won’t shy away from conflict, yet she brings peace and support wherever she works. We feel privileged to be able to share her message with the wider world. “
Baker has earned a wide variety of awards and accolades. She was recently named a “Fun, Fearless Female” in the May 2013 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine; was awarded 2012 Gerbode Professional Development Fellowship; named a “Local Hero” in 2009 by San Francisco’s KQED during Women’s History Month; and “Young Executive Director of the Year” in 2005 by the Bay Area’s Young Non-Profit Professional Network.
“Aspen Baker has been at the forefront of navigating abortion’s gray areas for over a decade and her unique perspective is inspiring and hopeful for a wide range of conflicted and hard-to-talk about issues, “ believes Exhale’s Board President, Jocelyn Yin. “I have no doubt Aspen’s book will set a new standard for not only how we talk about abortion in this country, but also, how we treat one another.”
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Thanks Cosmo! You know how to make a middle-age lady feel like a winner.
Posted in I did | Tagged Cosmopolitan Magazine, Exhale, Fearless, Female, Fun, Pro-Voice | Leave a Comment »
At 30-years old, I hit a metaphorical wall. I was exhausted and burned-out. A social entrepreneur, I had poured my whole self into the venture I began at 24-years old and it seemed there was nothing left of me, for me. I had a hard time getting to sleep. I cried a lot. I was broke.
I looked for role models, for other feminists who had dedicated their lives to changing the world by leading organizations to see how they did it. I saw just two choices. Either I could keep going, personal sacrifices be dammed, and find myself an old, bitter lady fighting the same battles year after year, with increasing exasperation and exhaustion. Or, I could quit and find something less taxing and also, less meaningful. I thought this was a false choice. I wanted a third-way, a path where I could be a leader with a joyful heart and a full life.
I set out to make that path. You might say, I leaned in to the challenge. Continue Reading »
Posted in I am, I believe, I did, I think, I will | Tagged Leadership, Lean In, Rewards, Risks, Sheryl Sandberg, Women | 2 Comments »