Abortion is back in the news.
Dudes are debating each other about it on blogging-heads. RH Reality Check has launched a new Common Ground feature. And, we are anxiously awaiting what President Obama has to say in a yet to be unveiled plan to…well, that seems to be the question..what is the plan?
Its gotten me thinking…and reflecting back.
In our 7-short but mighty years of existence, Exhale has done an incredible amount of work to shift the dialogue around abortion. From our very first paper in 2005 (a must-read, if I do say so myself) describing the necessity and possibility of a Pro-Voice framework to the broad-array of work we do now, we have stayed true to our mission: to create a social climate more supportive and respectful of each woman’s unique experience with abortion.
Exhale has seen real, tangible results with our efforts. More women have more access to more emotional care than ever before. They have more outlets in which to get support, tell their story, and raise their voice in public dialogue. The emotional experience of abortion has been acknowledged in places where the issue was previously greeted with skepticism, and sometimes, frankly, scorn. New research, new clinic intake protocols and new blog features on abortion story-telling are just some of examples of change. I couldn’t be more pleased with all we’ve accomplished. I am that much more ready and inspired to keep going.
I feel as strongly as I did then, as I do now, that the voices of those who have helped to shape Exhale over the years are the voices describing our future. A look through their lens is a look through the lens of possibility. Many of our new supporters have not had the chance to read the words of those who have shaped Exhale’s work, and thus our current national dialogue around abortion.
In honor of all the people – allies, ambassadors, volunteers and advocates – who spoke out in recognition of the need to support women emotionally after-abortion, before it was convenient or popular to do so, I will re-publish their words here. Their voices have helped create an environment in which President Obama and his team can find open-minds for a new kind of agenda, a new tone, a transformed debate. It is what we all need.
I am proud to publish one of my favorites, from previous Exhale volunteer, Cristina Correa. She writes about how a culture that was once a place of judgment, can be transformed into a place of support. I believe this is possible and true.
Latinas: Building Support Within the Culture
By Cristina Correa
Family. Community. Religion
These are the very components of Latino culture. These are the elements that bring us together, that offer us support, that provide a sense of pride and strength. They let us know we are never alone, that we are always welcome.
This is the culture where family, community and church members, rally around young, unmarried women to insure Latino children are raised in caring, loving environments.
This is also the culture that shames Latinas who have abortions.
Growing up as a Latina in California, I knew many young, unmarried Latinas who had babies. While initially admonished for committing the sin of having premarital sex, these women could also count on their families playing an active role in helping her raise the child.
Abortion, on the other hand, was taboo. So was information about how to protect against STD’s and pregnancy. Rather than have these difficult but important conversations about our health, sexually active young Latinas just cross their fingers.
I began working in the reproductive and sexual health field because I wanted to work with Latina’s to create safe places to talk about and make decisions about traditionally taboo subjects, like abortion.
For every Latina who chooses to have a baby, knowing she will be supported, another Latina makes the decision to have an abortion en secreto. After an abortion, Latinas who have always looked to their families, communities and churches as places to receive love and support, instead feel isolated from them. Because most often these centers of culture are anti-abortion, Latinas often feel they must repress their feelings, “act normal,” and never discuss having an abortion.
The Latinas who have told me their story of abortion, whether in my work with Promotoras, providing abortion services or as a volunteer on the Exhale talkline, have talked about the silence and lack of support after an abortion. It is the perceived myths and social reactions to an abortion that can make the process emotionally difficult.
The silence around abortion has not stopped Latinas from having them. It has also not stopped them from going to church and needing the support of their families and communities. The same culture that makes the decision of abortion so difficult can also be the place of comfort and support to break the silence.
Nuestra familia. Nuestra comunidad. Nuestra Espirtualidad.
*This was first published in “Freedom to Exhale,” Summer 2004