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Archive for April, 2009

Exhale’s Pro-Voice Ambassadors travel near and far to spread our message of nonjudgment, respect and support for every woman who has had an abortion. Together, we grow the opportunities for our pro-voice vision to take hold and become our new, lived reality.

The backs of our T-shirts say it well:

We understand things aren’t black and white and we’re cool living in the gray.
We are ready for the abortion war to end.
We know people.
We are organized.
We believe that women who have had abortions should get support for their emotions.
We are pro-voice.

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Proooooooooo………..VOICE!

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Pro-Voice Schwag For All!

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Pro-Voz. Pro-Voice.

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I am beyond thrilled to announce that Exhale has earned the Excellence in Nonprofit Volunteer Management Award from the Volunteer Center of the Bay Area. We are honored to share the distinction with another fabulous organization, Reading Partners.

I will publish an interview with Kristen Schultz Oliver, Exhale’s Lead Trainer, and volunteer coordinator extraordinaire next week. Kristen can fill us all in on what it takes to run an award-winning volunteer program!

What a great way to cap off Exhale’s weeklong celebration of National Volunteer Week!

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This week is National Volunteer Week and I am thrilled to spend the week celebrating the amazing women who serve as volunteers on the Exhale after-abortion talkline. Because of them, women and men can find comfort and support after an abortion. Here are some words of support and celebration from others for Exhale volunteers:


“Thank you so very much for providing this necessary resource. What you do is amazing and I hope you’re able to continue this service as long as it’s needed. When most of the other post-abortion resources are religiously affiliated it’s good to know that there is a place where women are encouraged to speak freely in order to help themselves without the fear of religious judgment. It’s impossible to explain how thankful I am that I found your website; that one call helped me through the most difficult time in my life.”

“To me, the volunteers are amazing in so many respects. One thing about our volunteers that I appreciate more and more every day is how they take time out of their busy days, put aside all the other obligations, responsibilities, distractions, and enticements and dedicate themselves to really *being* there for our callers. It takes a surprising amount of dedication to do this, especially with the way technology can keep us connected all the time. So please thank them for me for their commitment not only to Exhale but to the callers to whom they give such high quality attention and support!”


“Several months ago, a good friend of mine was distraught over her recent abortion. I cannot tell you the peace and appreciation I felt for being able to refer her to Exhale. I have the privilege of knowing that Exhale’s volunteers are the crème de la crème. Knowing that all judgment would be set aside to honor my friend’s unique abortion experience in her moment was something I felt tremendously thankful for. Most importantly I know my friend left her call heard and respected, and in that moment, that gift that a volunteer gave her was immeasurable. Thank you, volunteers!”


“You’ve got an amazing group of women. If Exhale ever gets tired of doing post-abortion work, you could reconfigure your organization and become TalentFinders, and do headhunting. Or hearthunting–those women have such good hearts.”


“I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the service that you provide. I have worked for two different reproductive health clinics and at both locations referred people to your hotline and website… I really identify with your Pro-Voice message and the emphasis on empathy. It is truly a wonderful, non-combative way of creating dialogue around an issue that is still so taboo in our society.”

Please join me and celebrate Exhale volunteers by offering your words of support and appreciation!

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According to Susan Mernit, co-founder of Pink Garage, a new online community and resource for women entrepreneurs, and a product development, business strategy and social media consultant, she was just awarded a New Voices fellowship to launch Oakland Local.

Oakland Local will be a daily-updated Web site and mobile service with a focus on environment, climate, transportation, housing, local government and community activism in Downtown, Uptown, North Oakland, West Oakland, Fruitvale, Lake Merritt, and the Dimond District.

We will have an editor, a publisher and three paid part-time reporters who will produce content, along with community contributors. We’ll be very mobile-friendly and the site will geotag content to an XML data map, encourage users to interact via cell phones and employ a range of social networking tools to surface, share and make discoverable so much of the amazing organizing and activism in Oakland.

Says Susan:

[Oakland Local] offers an opportunity to provide so many groups working on issues in Oakland an opportunity to have their work and views be heard and seen. And to work with lots of people to invent this.

Yay Susan! Where do we sign up?

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When I was in high school, I had a good friend, who I will call Cole, who was an easy-going, friendly guy who also made his living as a professional surfer traveling the world. He wore relaxed cords, flip flops and he had a heavy mop of bleach blond hair. Whenever I saw him at the beach, hanging with his friends at my house, or picking up a carne asada burrito at our favorite spot, and I asked him how he was, he answered, every, single time, “oh, I’m just fine.” He was known for this. All of his friends always, said, “That’s Cole, he always says he’s just fine.”

Which means, he never, ever, actually said how he was doing or feeling. It was never “I’m excited because I’m leaving for Tavarua tomorrow on a surf trip” or “I’m bummed that my buddy didn’t make it into the Top 10 this year” or “I’m enjoying getting to know this new girl” or “Geez, I hope I can really make it as a pro surfer. I’m worried about what will happen if I don’t.” He was always just fine. I guess you can say I never really felt like I knew him, despite spending quite a bit of time with him and our mutual friends. I wonder if anyone ever felt like they did.

Nowadays, when I go out in the world and talk about Exhale’s work to support women and men emotionally post-abortion, I get several kinds of responses. Many, many people, thankfully, just say the obvious, “wow, I imagine that is really important and helpful to people.” Some people assume the talkline exists because every woman who has an abortion is in deep emotional trauma afterwards while others can’t for the life of them imagine the need for such a thing, given the fact that abortion is a medical procedure like tooth extraction.

Yes, people do believe this.

When I get a little deeper, often with the skeptics, the “abortion is no big deal” folks, I often hear a response that sounds a little like this, “Well, I’m glad you’re there for the one person who may need to talk (because obviously their family/the Right/their Religion made them feel bad), but most people I know “felt fine” after their abortion.” When I advocate with clinics and other health providers to be more pro-active in addressing the emotional experience of abortion, I often get the “well, of course, I want to to help people having problems, but most of them are “just fine.”

According to Webster’s the definition of “fine” is related to the term “all right”, as in “whatever you decide is fine with me” or “He was ill but he is fine now”. To “feel fine” after an abortion is not a gauge of the abortions significance in someone’s life. It is a statement to say, yes “I am here. I am alive. I am safe.”

I am fine.

What fine is not, is a descriptive word that describes how people are feeling about their abortion, good or bad, or what they need for themselves moving forward.

So, what are feelings? Again, according to Webster’s, feelings are a response, partly mental and partly physical, to something, anything. And it can be positive or negative. These days, the ability to identify, understand and cope with feelings is well-known to be crucial to our overall individual health and well-being.

The website We Feel Fine tracks what people write about their feelings online. Right now, as I type this, I know that 125,155 people just wrote somewhere they feel “better.” “Better” is the number one feeling online. “Bad” is the second. Over 91,000 people online feel “bad” right now, with “good,” “right,” “guilty” and “sick” being 3, 4, 5, and 6, respectively. “Fine” is currently in 39th place with about 7,000 people claiming that feeling. There’s a lot more feelings in between “better” and “fine” and many of them will be much more descriptive for how someone is responding to an abortion experience.

Not to mention, that its pretty hard to read an email, blog post or text these days without finding an emoticon. We are all emoting all over the place, all the time, and we want people to know. Being seen and heard by others for our emotions – what we are feeling – is now a major part of our culture. It is how we relate to each other, and get to know each other.

Its why I never really feel like I got to know my friend Cole. There was never an emotion shared.

Supporting the emotions and responding to the needs of women and men post-abortion is a simple and powerful way to let them know that they are important and they matter to you. And, it will go a long way to promoting their emotional well-being in the long run.

Here is what I mean:

Are they feeling relief and need a chance to laugh? Are they feeling sad and need a hug? Are they feeling confused and need to be alone? Are they feeling hopeful and need to share their dreams for the future with you? Are they feeling lonely and need to be around their friends?

These are real feelings and real needs and this is what supporting women and men post-abortion looks like and sounds like. It doesn’t just have to happen on a talkline, or in therapy or with your priest. You can do it too. All you need is to listen, without judgment. Be there.

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Talk about a lesson in nonjudgment!

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You are the first to see the brand new, limited edition, first-ever Pro-Voice T-shirts! Available in two colors and unisex sizing, modeled by yours truly.

White w/purple Front:

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White w/purple Back:

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Brown w/green Front:

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Brown w/green Back:

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