Archive for March, 2009

Abortion in Film: Two Lovers

Gwyneth Paltrow plays Michelle, a woman who is dating a partner at the law firm where she works, a man who is a married father. Joaquin Phoenix (hot!), plays Leonard, Michelle’s neighbor, who is falling in love with Michelle, even though he’s dating another lady, Sandra. Michelle and Leonard start spending more time together and one day she calls him because she’s sick and needs to go the hospital. At the hospital she finds out she is pregnant from the married guy she’s dating, and she’s having a miscarriage. The doctor performs a D & C (abortion) to complete the miscarraige. Despite making plans to take off with Leonard for San Francisco, Michelle ends up staying with the married guy, and Leonard proposes to Sandra. The End.

Read Full Post »

Overall, it was a great night! Every local hero was an inspiration. I was really struck by how many of us found our leadership path through personal experience – whether as a woman who has had an abortion, a lesbian cop, a homeless addict or a loving mother to a special needs child – each local hero found a calling from their own life. Combine that with passion, family support, mentorship, courage, tenacity and vision – we cannot be stopped! My fellow awardess have forever improved the lives of countless people and family’s.

Go Local Heroes!











Read Full Post »

Thank you KQED and Wells Fargo for a great night!

Read Full Post »

How did Rorschach get so dark, moody and cold? When he was a child his mother, a whore apparently, yelled at him: “I should have had an abortion!” That would do it.

On the flip side, Laurie Jupiter finds out her real father is not who she thinks he is. Instead, it is Edward Blake, The Comedian, who once brutally beat her mother Sally Jupiter and attempted to rape her. Supposedly, though she marries another, she “loves” the Comedian, their relationship is “complicated” and their supposedly consensual-sex years later produces daughter Laurie, her “true gift” and the reason she never regrets her affair with the man who once assaulted her.

So, let me get this straight. A whore does not get her abortion, regrets continuing her pregnancy and produces a cold, calculating killer. A female guardian is brutalized by her compatriot, has sex with him years later and produces a daughter who grows into a sexy, adventurous do-gooder.

I know its a comic-book thing, but really, why is abortion even part of this dialogue? Both women got pregnant scandalously by men other than their husbands and both had babies (no abortions). But, to appropriately portray one as evil and the other as good, they use how the woman takes to her pregnancy and motherly duties as the true test of her character, and thus an explanation for their child’s path. The woman who rejects her motherly instincts, who goes so far as to say she wishes she had an abortion is evil, while the other one withstands beatings and attempted rape all to find her perfect role as mother.

Riiigghhttttttt….listen up ladies! Love comes with pain and its all worth it in the end! Just take it!

Obviously, I am joking. But one minute I’m writing about how Rhianna is taking the abuse of Chris Brown and the next minute I am seeing a movie that glosses over abuse with words like complicated and sends the message, clearly and specifically (i.e., Dr. Manhattan’s speech on Mars) that taking abuse is noble.


Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

The March issue of Glamour magazine covered the issue of abortion through the voices of the women who have actually had one. It did a great deal to promote post-abortion emotional health by recognizing the emotional aspect of an abortion experience. As you can imagine, the article was analyzed in great depth by both the pro-choice and pro-life sides and organizations moved quickly to put their spin on it. Devlo on SpinSpotter.com does a great job myth-busting the spin.

Mostly, what I was interested in and struck by was how the pro-choice and pro-life sides would frame the personal stories that were shared, without filter. I was not surprised by what I found.

Here is list of quotes from blogs and press releases commenting on the Glamour abortion article:

Glamour delves into the abortion issue in a way few ladymags would (and few women would agree to): she talks to women who have had them.

An article on abortion that talks to women who actually had one…several of the women found the decision extremely difficult.

The Glamour Magazine article is a good read if you are interested in the grayness of abortion. It isn’t black and white.

Glamour magazine explores the real life stories of women who have had abortions… the magazine gave voice to women whose abortion was a traumatic experience.

All too often, magazines like Glamour will shy away from publishing women’s raw abortion stories…by allowing some women to share about the emotional hell they have gone through, this issue treats the abortion experience more honestly.

Kudos to Glamour for acknowledging women who’ve had abortions and treating them like human beings with stories worth telling (and hearing). [The article] called for more open and honest dialogue about women’s experiences with abortion.

treats abortion with a level of honesty rarely found in such venues.

Hopefully more women and men will search for and find true peace after their abortion experience because of Glamour’s acknowledgement of this serious health decision.

The significant gap of resources for women experiencing psychological toil following abortion represents a largely unmet need in women’s mental health care today, particularly given the statistic that one in three women will have an abortion by age 45

Post-abortion healing group offers a nonjudgmental space to read and connect with others similar abortion experiences as well as to find assistance in identifying feelings and emotions. The fact that an individual is not alone is enforced as well as the hope of healing pathways from which to move forward.

Having someone with whom to share one’s feelings about abortion is really important…by not telling the people who love and care about you – or at least getting counseling – you are actually feeding your own perception that what you have done is wrong, unforgivable or terrible…the less people talk about what happened to them, the more they feel stigmatized and alone in what happened to them or the decisions they made.

So – what do you think? Which quote was pro-choice and which was pro-life?

I’m not going to tell you!

They are all (almost) PRO-VOICE.

While abortion can be a contentious political battle, and there continues to be a lot of stigma and stereotypes about women who have had abortions and what they experience emotionally afterward, there is a place of common ground:

We can – and we should – agree to listen to the voices of women post-abortion, offer them the kind of support that they want, and be at their side to promote their emotional well-being.

Pro-voice is a post-partisan approach to abortion.

Read Full Post »

On February 27th, I attended Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s briefing on the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There was only a couple of days notice about the briefing and I had no idea what to expect. When I showed up at the Asian Cultural Center in the Chinatown section of downtown Oakland, I saw there was going to be a 12-person panel!


The briefing started almost an hour late and they had to bring in more chairs. But there were lots of luminaries in attendance, including representatives from East Bay MUD, BART, Hayward Schools, the Oakland Mayor’s office, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington, Oakland City Councilmember Pat Kernighan, and many, many more, all of whose names I couldn’t write down fast enough. When Barbara Lee took to the podium she got a standing ovation!

Aranthan S. Jones, II, otherwise known as “A.J.” is the Director of Policy and Research for Majority Whip, Congressman James Clyburn from South Carolina. Clyburn and Lee serve together on the Congressional Black Caucus, of which Lee is the Chairwoman. A.J gave the real overview of the Recovery Act and the mandate they followed from President Obama to get it done. Basically, he says they were given an 8 day deadline to come up with a one trillion dollar bill. A.J. was adamant that there are no apologies on the size of the bill or the speed in which it was created.

In the end, they didn’t get the whole trillion, but they did get $787 Billion.

Each member of the 12-person panel represented a government agency and with AJ, Lee and each panelist, we got a good idea for where the money is going in California, the Bay Area and Oakland specifically, and what it means.


Representatives included:

Ms. Leslie Walker, Regional Communications Director, Social Security Administration
Mr. Mark Quinn, Regional Director, Small Business Administration
Ms. Karen Schwinn, Associate Director of the Water Division, Environmental Protection Agency
Ms. Caroline Krewson, Deputy Regional Director, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Richard Trigg, Regional Administrator, Department of Labor
Mr. Emory Lee, Acting Regional Director, Department of Health and Human Services
Mr. Billy Beaver, San Francisco Regional Director, Department of Labor
Phyllis Farrell, Supervisor, Veterans Administration Regional Office
Dr. Donald Medley, Berkeley Lawrence Laboratory, Department of Energy
Bernice Fischer, Governmental Liaison Area Manager, Internal Revenue Service
Mr. Will Kempton, Director, California Department of Transportation.

Here are some of the highlights:

If you are a university or organization that already gets money from the government for science, math, engineering, or green energy, you will get more money.
$ 30 million for micro-finance
$ 2.1 Billion for HeadStart
$120 Million for community-service jobs for low-income, older Americans
81% of state stabilization funds for local education agencies will be spent on construction.
$ 20 billion for foodstamps – increases individual benefit by 13%
$ 87 billion for Medicaid – 30% held for areas with high poverty, the rest is a 9% federal reimbursement to states
$ 7.2 billion to EPA
$ 13.6 billion to HUD – 75% already allocated (!)
$ 4 million to community development block grants and
$ 4.5 billion to labor, $ 500 million goes to green jobs. Labor money will come by March 19th and will have to be expended within 30 days.
$ 38 billion to health and human services, focusing on health information technology, wellness and prevention.
New VA benefits for Filipino vets
IRS had new withholding tables up on their website within 4 days of bill signing (!)

Here are a couple important points for Oakland:

Oakland renters are facing serious problems when the homes they rent are foreclosed upon and banks try to kick them out. Recovery Act includes protections for renters and forces banks to uphold the lease when owners foreclose. There is also 11 million for public housing in the 9th District.

Also, in the Bay Area, the Social Security Administration is hiring 100 people by April 1. Get out your resumes! In California there is $ 4.6 billion to California for transportation infrastructure, which will be creating lots of construction jobs.

If you need a job, government is the place to get one right now. Which, I guess is the point of this bill. I’m wondering how its all going to look in 2 years when the money is gone. Will it have created the stimulus the economy needed and generated new jobs, so those being hired or contracted by government agencies will find new employment, or will this become the new way of doing business? Did the government need to inflate after 8 years of neglect which let more and more and more people fall through the cracks until it didn’t just effect one person or one family or one community, but the whole nation and thus the world? Is this the kind of infrastructure we need to keep up with a growing, changing world? Or, will we just be creating more bureaucracy and pork that needs to feed itself in the years to come?

These were some of the questions going through my mind as I pondered these HUGE sums of money and what they meant for the poor, middle-class and the state of California. Overall, most Americans are going to get a significant tax cut from the Recovery Act. And, just to give you a sense of where California is on all things taxes: California takes in over $8,000 per person a year in revenue, though they only collect about $3,000 of that from individual taxes. The state spends nearly $6,500 a year per person. Yet, for every federal dollar we give in taxes, we get back only $0.78 in federal spending. I am SUPER CURIOUS about how all this will change with the Recovery Act.

Overall, what I heard from Lee and the panelists at the briefing was SPEED, GREEN, TRANSPARENCY. The speed of which the bill was created, signed and money has been sent, and the speed to which government agencies are required to spend it. Really, I can’t tell you how many times my jaw was literally hanging open as panelist after panelist talked about having already received millions of dollars and how quickly they plan to spend it. Shocking for government, just shocking.

Green jobs & energy was mentioned by almost every panelist and it was clear that this is a priority throughout every agency. Amazing to just hear green energy being the status quo in everything from labor to the EPA. And there is a clear process of accountability for all the money and how and where it is spent. These folks seemed determined to do it right.

I also got the sense that a lot of this money was for things that the Democrats have been wanting to accomplish over the last 8 years – like increasing food stamp benefits – but weren’t able to because of Bush’s “starve the beast” approach to government programs for things other than war and defense. I am so proud to be a constituent of Barbara Lee and to hear what she was able to accomplish for Oakland, and other urban areas, to better serve and meet the needs of the poor. In everything from housing and food stamps to job training and health care, Lee took a strong stand and got real results. These are the things that can make all the difference not only in one person’s life but for the whole community in which they are members. We struggle together, we thrive together.

Read Full Post »

I am thrilled and honored to be recognized by KQED as an Unsung Local Hero in celebration of Women’s History Month! Read about me and my hero cohorts on the KQED website.


Jean Murrell Adams, ADAMS ESQ:

Lieutenant Lea Militello, SF Police Department:

Leslie Simon, City College of San Francisco:

Mary Howe, Homeless Youth Alliance:

Yay Womens Heroes!

Read Full Post »

The day of President Obama’s Presidential Address I posted an article on RH Reality Check, asking President Obama to directly address the millions of American women, and our loved ones, who have personally experienced abortion. Along with my article, I published the voices of women who have had abortions and who said – in one sentence – what it is they want to hear. The conversation continues and with over 75 comments made on the article so far, it continues to be one of the most popular discussions on the site.

One of the women who has been very active in the discussion is a woman named Lisa. Lisa has had 3 abortions and is filled with regret. She is strongly against abortion and has made several comments on my post speaking out about her beliefs.

As a woman who has had an abortion, I invited Lisa to join the campaign and to say what is she wants to hear from President Obama. How can he express his support and respect for her unique experience? Our conversation grew. Here is the dialogue between Lisa and I. My goal was to express respect and nonjudgment for her experience and beliefs and to advocate this approach for every woman who has had an abortion.

Lisa, Feb. 24th [in response to a woman who used the word choice in her one sentence]:

It would be helpful if you would state what is actually occurring rather that gloss over it with that idiotic word “choice”. It would read like this: …”I know it pains some commenters here to be reminded that women are humans who decide to kill their babies for good reasons…” I am saying this as a woman who had three abortions when I was young, scared, and with no true understanding of what I was doing. I regret killing my babies. I WISH there had been a law to save myself and those little human lives from my own stupidity and I wish there had been SOMEONE pulling for me to be a mother to my babies instead of killing them. I pray this nation and the world WAKES UP about this senseless, barbaric baby killing that has been going on for far too long. Your remark about sperm is brilliant also. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

Aspen, Feb. 24th:

Hi Lisa,

As a woman who has had abortions you are invited to join in this campaign. If President Obama could say one sentence tonight that would make you feel seen and heard for the experience you are describing above – what would that sentence be? What would you like to hear? I hope you will contribute.

Lisa, Feb. 25th:

You could sum up yourself from my comments what I wish he would say! He won’t say it–not now. He and the other liberals in Washington currently are chomping at the bit to kill as many pre-born children as they can. Thanks for the invitation, but I am not like the post-abortive women here, I suspect. I came here off a link from Jill Staneck. I regret my abortions. I wish not another woman would choose it for herself and the unborn human baby she carries. Abortion is satan’s PRIZE on this earth.

Aspen, Feb. 26th:

Thanks for responding Lisa. One of the first things I noticed after my own abortion was that there seemed to be two groups of women who have had abortions – pro-life women who regret it, and pro-choice women who don’t – and that somehow these groups saw each other as the enemy. This hurts my heart, deeply. What I really want is for us to listen and learn from each other. You may not be like the other women here, and you do share something in common with them. And there are many others here who may have more in common with you than you know, but who aren’t public with their story. Judgment and blaming are big parts of why women will chose to keep their story to themselves. That is why listening and understanding is so important.

Regret is real and hard and can stay in your life for many, many years. I also believe that healing is possible and I have heard from many women, as I’m guessing you have as well, who have found peace and a way to reconcile their pain. I want that for every woman like you.

My pro-voice work with Exhale is about creating support and respect for women like you, and others who have had abortions, across the range of experiences, values and beliefs. What we have in common is the need to be seen and heard.

Lisa, Feb. 28th:

I have attended Rachel’s Vineyard and that began my healing process. I do not know if one can ever be fully “healed” from abortion, but I have fully faced my abortions and am continuing the healing journey through activism and speaking out. I am part of the Silent No More Awareness campaign. I will ALWAYS regret my abortions, I do not see how I could ever NOT regret taking human life. It isn’t something you can just one day not regret having done. That doesn’t mean I will not have joy in my life, it just means I will always regret taking another human life. I have to say, my own belief about pro-abortion women who have had abortions is that they do not want to face the reality of what they have done. To do so is for your world to come crashing down on you with the realization that you have killed a human person in the safest place that would be known to them. Period. Now, I understand what it is like to be in that place very well. It is a ‘safe’ place, where you tell yourself you were a victim of your circumstances and oh thank God I had the choice. Like I said in another response- this debate is all about how you choose to look at it. The problem with that is IT DOESN’T MATTER whether or not you choose to deny it, that beating heart is a life, and before that it was still simply growing into that beating heart. Science has proven it no matter how much people choose to deny it. Like I said, say, “Women deserve the choice to kill their unborn child” and “I am glad I had the choice to murder my child in my womb so I could finish college” or “I am relieved that I have the option to murder my fetus so I do not have to deliver a baby I cannot afford” When abortion is not candy coated and glossed over, it sounds different, doesn’t it?

Aspen, Feb. 28th:

Many callers to Exhale’s talkline have also attended retreats with Rachels Vineyard and have benefitted from that experience. I agree with you, regret and healing can be lifelong journey’s, and its never about arriving at a static place in time, as in today, “I am healed.” I am glad to hear that you can relate to other women’s experiences, having been there yourself, but I think we disagree about one thing, and that is what it means to truly understand others, and have empathy for them. I believe you when you tell me you regret your abortion and I believe women when they say they did their best. I believe that what women say is true for them (even if I may disagree with it or not like it). I want to be believed, I want you to be believed, and I want every other woman to be believed. For me, this isn’t about glossing over the reality of what abortion is, it is about understanding each person who experienced one. If there is to be any change on this issue, this is where I believe it will come from, not from attacking or judging each other. Thanks for the dialogue, Lisa, I appreciate it.

Lisa, March 1st:

What do you mean by ‘change on this issue’? Are you saying that you would like to see abortion unavailable, or against the law, or reduced, or still a choice to be had for whoever wants it for all time? Do you want women to know that it is not a good choice, or is a good choice, just for them to decide?
I will never attack a woman because she aborted, or wants to abort. Speaking the truth is not attacking, but, it can FEEL like an attack if you are in denial about what the REAL issue is, no?
An abortion is: The purposeful killing of a human life at a point where that life has absolutely no power to stop the killing of it, in the safest place that it will ever find on this earth, it’s mothers womb.
Do you agree with this statement? It is a true statement, yet the wording of it is what will make women feel attacked. The word ‘killing’. I will never ever be able to both regret my own killing of my unborn children, and at the same time pat another post-abortive woman on the back to comfort her in her denial of what has happened. That hinders a TRUE healing journey. I do not agree that healing of a symptom rather than the real issue is of any benefit to anyone, for any reason. The woman also deserves to MOURN that baby, mourn the loss of her baby whom she will never hold in her arms, never provide comfort for. It takes pure honesty to be able to do that. My hope is that not another woman would choose abortion for any reason because it ends the life of the unborn, and it also takes a large chunk of the mother’s life as she spends the rest of her life contemplating the abortion. I thank you too, Aspen for this forum for women to discuss this! It is so important for all ideas to be heard and shared without being filtered. Thank you so much!

Aspen, March 1st:

Hi Lisa,

This might be the longest online discussion I’ve had with any one person. We got a marathon session going here.

In our back and forth I was reminded about the way personal experiences with abortion get stereotyped and understood. There is this idea that women who don’t regret their abortions are somehow “in denial” of the truth or their personal pain, while women like you who do regret their abortions and have found healing and forgiveness from God are somehow “brainwashed” or “manipulated” by others. Which stereotype you believe depends upon which side of the political issue you find yourself on.

I don’t believe either. I don’t believe that you are brainwashed or manipulated – I believe you speak your truth. I give that same level of credit and belief to women who say their decision was best – I believe they speak their truth. I don’t think they are in denial.

When I talk about bringing change on the issue, this is what I mean. I want to transform this conflict, a conflict that pits women with a shared experience against each other and stereotypes (in one way or the other) all women who have had abortions. This is personal and hurtful and we can do better. We should listen to each other.

I will be posting my second article in my series “peace for the abortion war” within the next week. I write much more directly about what I mean when I talk about change. I hope you come back and read it. I hope you comment too!

Lisa, March 2nd:

Aspen, do you agree with the statement I made on what abortion is in my last comment? Please respond.
And, is there “a truth” in addition to “your truth” and “my truth” ?

I have not answered Lisa’s question. I would love to. Unfortunately, the online format and discussion we are in is not a safe place to discuss our deepest ideas and beliefs, as you can see from reading the entirety of the online discussion around my article, and in order for me to answer, that is what I need. It also reminds me yet again of the pro-voice challenge – both sides are always looking to nail us down to one side or the other – they want to know, are you with me? or are you my enemy? This is part of the problem, and what contributes to lack of safety, the lack of trust. Answering the question doesn’t build either, it just serves to place me in a category, to make people think they know who I am, to invite their judgment, their stereotype. Today, I don’t answer. Maybe later.

Read Full Post »

Researchers in the Middle East recently asked citizens what it would take to bring about peace in their war-torn region. What they found might surprise you. In what many in the West might consider a “common-sense” offer, Palestinians would be asked to give up their right to return in exchange for a two-state solution and a $10 billion per year for 100 years. Yet both Israelis and Palestinians from across the political spectrum rejected these options. They would not sacrifice for peace.

But, if researchers suggested that the deal would come with an official apology from Israel, the whole picture changed. “Yes, an apology is important, as a beginning,” said Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chairman of Hamas. When Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-line former Israeli prime minister was asked whether he would consider a two-state solution if Hamas recognized the Jewish people’s right to an independent state, he replied, “OK, but the Palestinians would have to show they mean it.” The researchers, Scott Atran and Jeremy Ginges, concluded in their New York Times editorial in January that “making these kinds of wholly intangible symbolic concessions, like an apology or recognition of a right to exist, simply doesn’t compute on any utilitarian calculus. And yet, the science says they may be the best way to start cutting [through] the great symbolic knot [of Palestine] that is the ‘mother of all problems.”

Imagine that: an apology. Not land, or money, or sovereignty. A symbolic act of recognition, an act that says I see you and I understand, can have more impact than “material and quality of life matters” on the possibilities for peace.

There are several things to learn from this. First, researchers did not survey the hard-line leaders. They went to the citizenry and asked them what they needed as conditions for peace. They raised the silent voices of those who are most impacted by the conflict and presented their responses to the leaders. Second, the researchers found a way to get at the heart of what is at stake, beyond the concrete and typical concerns about electricity, water, and the economy that are often the focus of negotiations. Their research clarified that for anyone involved in a conflict as long-lasting, deeply-felt and consequential as the conflict in the Middle East, the sacrifice of values and beliefs is considered unacceptable and could never lead to peace.

If you have been following my posts on how to bring peace to the abortion war here on RH Reality Check, or have read Amanda Marcotte’s critique of my theory, you probably know where I am headed. In my posts I have proposed that the voices of women who have had abortions should lead the dialogue about abortion in the United States, not the current leaders of either side, as part of a strategy that I call pro-voice.

What I hope to convey now is that addressing abortion as a matter of the heart and soul, rather than an issue of legal rights, can open up new possibilities for peace. I will show why compromise or politically-minded “common ground” solutions will not resolve our war: the abortion war.

Many readers have questioned my use of the term “abortion war” despite the fact that this terminology is a common cultural reference. I understand their concerns. In conflict, the ability to define the debate is part of the battle. Each side wants to name the problem in a way that supports their goals, and hurts their opponents. This is also true for the abortion war. If you ask people with a range of political views what the “abortion war” is about, you are bound to get very different answers. Some will say that the war is waged to save innocent unborn babies, and others argue that it was drummed up to drive a wedge between people who may otherwise agree. Still others say that the “abortion war” is in fact a patriarchal assault on women, their bodies, rights and sexuality. Fighting over the inherent meaning, the root cause, of any given conflict is intrinsic to every conflict.

Despite their disagreement, what people on different sides of the issue have in common is a deep and fundamental belief that their fight is not only important and justified, it is an opportunity and a privilege to fight for what they believe. In essence, this war isn’t about any one particular issue or right, it is about the importance of who we are, our own human dignity, and the strength of our conviction to fight on our own behalf.

I offer myself as an example.

I love a good debate. I love to be challenged to think in new, critical ways and equally enjoy pushing others to do the same. I believe fundamentally in people’s inherent goodness and in each person’s innate desire to strive to be better – and I believe that we can harness that drive to improve all of our lives. And I have had an abortion, something I never thought I would do, which has forever changed the way I look at the world. After my abortion, I came to understand the value of the phrase “Don’t judge others until you have walked a mile in their shoes” in a whole new way. I made a promise to myself to practice that value every day of my life. My abortion was an awakening, a maturing, and a loss of innocence, in the best and the most difficult sense of the term. Through direct personal experience with the issue, in combination with my own personal passions and drive, I have found this difficult debate over abortion to be an incredibly compelling place to put all my experiences, values and beliefs into practice.

This war gives me something to do, something valuable and something important. I do not want to give up that sense of purpose in my life. Neither do many of the women and men who have formed an identity as a pro-choice or pro-life crusader and who have invested time, passion, and money in their cause. That is why it is not effective when outsiders call for an end to war through compromise. Even though both sides can probably understand why “Americans are just tired of fighting over abortion” – as Jean Schroedel, a political scientist at Claremont Graduate University told the Wall Street Journal recently – crusaders won’t accept compromise as a political solution because it demands that they sacrifice deep and profound parts of who they are and they will not. They cannot. I won’t.

In a war for human dignity, you cannot ask opponents to split the difference.

But, the fight over abortion has created a conflict of epic proportions, attacks are personal and crusaders are hurt. Feelings of disrespect, humiliation, and worse, misunderstanding, at the hands of opponents make the need to be seen and heard, to be proven right, even stronger. This is how conflict works, how it escalates and polarizes. With a deeper understanding about the cycle of conflict, not only can we de-escalate and transform the abortion war, we can take the steps that lead towards peace.

I believe that it is possible that as a society we may arrive at a time when we are able to discuss the role government should play in matters of sexuality, pregnancy and parenting without choosing sides through the lens of war, without worrying whether a decision will strengthen or weaken the political power of the pro-choice or pro-life movements. Peace does not mean that we all agree, but that we focus our higher purpose on transforming the conflict instead of feeding a war.

It is an interesting and unlikely time to plan for peace in the abortion war. After years of political losses, there is a clear pro-choice majority in all three branches of government and it is safe to assume that peace is not in the political interest of winners. And yet, after a long and vicious battle, wins are no longer as sweet for either side. Warriors, while as committed and passionate as always, are tired. The dramatic wins they hoped for have not occurred. One side has not captured the heart and soul of all Americans. In fact, Americans have demonstrated remarkable consistency on the issue – poll after poll demonstrates that most people don’t like the idea of abortion very much, think it’s a pretty significant emotional experience for women, and believe that it ends a human life-of-some-kind, but are against making it always or mostly illegal, and hate the idea of government regulating their private, personal lives.

Rather than continuing to invest in what is bound to be a long, vicious slog on an issue that feels increasingly irrelevant to Americans confronting grave threats to our planet and economy, we can invest in transforming the conflict and start addressing matters of the heart. We can begin with an apology (“I’m sorry I called you a baby-killer/vicious misogynist), a recognition (“The value you place on life/rights is admirable”), or a symbolic concession (“I believe abortion can be emotional for women/I believe in protecting the health of pregnant women”). We begin by saying: “I see you and I understand.”

Leaders on both sides can and should be the first and set an example for the rest. And, instead of trying to recruit more Americans to the fight, when we already know they are tired of it, leaders should invite Americans to join them: to grow our collective understanding about the experiences of women who have had abortions and to co-create a vision of care and support for women and their families. Americans are great problem-solvers – all we need is a little inspiration and someone ready and willing to lead the way.

Together, we can and we should venture towards peace.


*This article is cross-posted on RH Reality Check*

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »