Posts Tagged ‘Aspen Baker’

Lisa Lepson, Executive Director of Joshua Venture Group and founding board president of Exhale, wrote “Losing Ownership of New Ideas: A Mark of Success” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on April 29, 2013.  In her piece, she writes about how social entrepreneurs, like me, impact social change by radically reframing ideas.

“The terms ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-life’ are alienating,” explained Heather Holdridge, director of digital strategy at Planned Parenthood, before she went on to describe her organization’s new campaign to drop them. I was listening to her speak on a panel at the Jewish Funders Network conference last month, but my mind quickly went elsewhere.

Eleven years ago, I was the founding board president of Exhale, an organization dedicated to providing emotional support to women and their allies after an abortion, and to removing the stigma around abortion. At the time, Exhale’s founder, Aspen Baker, a social entrepreneur, had a radical viewpoint: The political labels of pro-choice and pro-life got in the way of our mission. She put forward a risky approach: to leave the labels behind and make our home in the grey area of personal abortion experiences.

You can imagine the response we got at the time. Established organizations working in the field of abortion rights were dumbfounded, threatened, confused, and angry. We were told to pick a side or “admit” that we were pro-choice. We faced suspicion and outright hostility. It didn’t matter how we tried to explain it. No one got it yet. It was a novel, daring approach, and Exhale’s board, staff, and volunteers spent the next decade advocating our view.

Exhale can list all the people who have used its services or sought its expertise. It knows how many people have called the after-abortion talkline, accessed their online resources, and trained as volunteer counselors. There are personal anecdotes, new financial supporters, and plenty of media articles, Twitter followers, and Facebook Likes.

But, how can Exhale measure progress on its mission of removing stigma and promoting emotional wellbeing after abortion?

Social entrepreneurs such as Aspen inject new values into communal conversations and can measure their success by taking stock of how perceptions around the issues they support have changed. They can track whether and how their novel, daring messages become mainstream.

She continues:

What social entrepreneurs do for social change is unique. They arrive on the scene, bring attention to community needs previously ignored, push the envelope, raise questions, and provide an alternative view and voice. They tackle problems with innovative models and impact large-scale public perceptions. Often, they work in fields dominated by large, established organizations with complicated networks of stakeholders and bureaucratic systems with large budgets. But these established organizations aren’t often nimble, and they struggle to adapt to contemporary needs. So when an organization such as Planned Parenthood or BBYO makes a major change and begins to own progressive messaging and values, it is years in the making.

That’s how a social entrepreneur can measure their impact. Years after their radical idea is rejected by mainstream organizations, the very same organizations will adopt them and promote these ideas as their own. Success for the social entrepreneur happens when their views are no longer feared but embraced.


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* This was first published on Mother Jones *

Jane Roe never had an abortion. In fact, she is not even pro-choice. Her real name is Norma McCorvey, and it’s been 40 years since she was the anonymous plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that eventually became the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

McCorvey’s legal pseudonym is shorthand for a defining victory of the pro-choice movement, yet she has dedicated most of her life to the pro-life movement. She is a symbol for all that was won and all that has been lost in the decades of culture war—a conflict that has unmoored our nation’s public discourse on abortion.

Norma is like a lot of people who regularly shift their views and allegiances surrounding abortion. These changes show up in opinion polls, and activists on both sides regularly use them to claim that their side is capturing the hearts and souls of Americans. But, the truth is that our hearts and souls have been waiting for the politics to catch up. (more…)

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*This was first published on Exhale.*

The characters on the television drama Parenthood experience issues many families face: a mother going through cancer, a child struggling to adjust to his adopted family, and a brother learning the intricacies of his interracial family. The emotion and connection viewers feel to the extended Braverman clan is what makes Parenthood such an addictive series to watch.

On January 8, 2013, in an episode titled “Small Victories,” Parenthood joined a  handful of TV series (such as Maude, Friday Night Lights andDeGrassi:The Next Generation) to feature a story about a personal experience with abortion. Before it even aired, Parenthood warned its viewers by Twitter to: “have your tissues handy.”

Sarah Watson is co-executive producer for Parenthood and was the writer of “Small Victories.” Sarah is known for her ability to tackle tough topics with humanity and empathy, including an episode earlier this season about the N-word. “It’s hard,” Ms. Watson says “to write about big, weighty issues [like racism or abortion] with experiences that are not your own. It requires incredible care. They are challenging stories as a writer” she revealed in a recent interview. And, she affirms that she’s really satisfied with how they both turned out. (more…)

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*This was first published on Exhale.*

Tonight, on NBC’s hit show Parenthood, teenage character Amy, the girlfriend of Drew (the son of Lauren Graham’s character, Sarah Braverman) has an abortion. Earlier in the series, viewers watched these two young people decide to have sex with each other, both for the first time.

The character Amy is not alone. Even though we don’t see personal experiences with abortion portrayed very often on TV or in the movies, abortion is incredibly common. Over a third of women in America will have one by the time they are 45; and women are talking more openly about their abortions.

Chances are you know someone like Amy or Drew. Or, you know a parent like Sarah who is dealing with the abortion of a son or daughter. It’s still rare to talk with the people in our lives about an abortion experience, so if someone you love tells you that they’ve had one, it’s important to show you care. (more…)

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*This post was originally published on the blog of WITNESS, the international, human rights video advocacy organization* 

Once you put a personal story into the world, you have no control over where it goes.  Someone can label it with a hashtag, add it to a tumblr, or remix with other stories. It can become an entirely different story altogether.  It happens all the time–just ask Carolyn Jones or Kassi Underwood.

And it just happened to me. Again.

As filmmakers, writers, publishers, activists, and leaders we work with others’ stories. We are storysharers more than storytellers, and we have an obligation to prioritize the original storytellers’ voices and messages. We cannot just look for stories that best convey our own agenda. My organization, Exhale, has written guides helping advocates to storyshare responsibly and to help women make decisions about when and how to share their stories.

As a storyteller, I was thrilled by an offer — from an online news source dedicated to progressive women’s causes — to republish an excerpt of my work. They had chosen my essay, “My Abortion Brought Us Together,” from Nothing But the Truth So Help me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection.

What could go wrong? (more…)

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I’m very honored to have my essay – “My Abortion Brought Us Together” – included in the anthology, Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection.

TRUTH_eBookCover_10-1.3.12 (2)

The book is the brain-child of Christine Bronstein, founder of A Band of Wives, and an all-around top-notch person.  She believes in the power of women’s voices and she practices what she preaches.  This book is just one example of how she makes her personal mission real in all of our lives. She also knows a thing or two about book-selling and its future, which I find especially exciting.

I had a great time at the book launch with Christine, and Chief Wife of ABOW, Leila Radan last month too, as you can see from the photo below.


Nothing But the Truth has received a bunch of accolades.  You can buy it on Indie-Bound or Book Passage, plus Amazon and Barnes and Noble, of course.

Teen Vogue calls it one of 16 Great Reads!

Do you have a story you want to share?  You can publish your own.  How Pro-Voice is that?

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*This was originally posted on the blog Exhale is Pro-Voice*

On Friday, June 17th, Exhale Executive Director Aspen Baker participated in a panel presentation at Netroots Nation entitled “FTW: Social Networks, Down & Dirty for Change.” Assembled by 16 & Loved architect Deanna Zandt, the panel also included Cheryl Contee from Fission Strategy, Anita Jackson from Moms Rising, and Rachel LaBruyere from Mobile Commons and explored case studied of social media successes. Aspen Baker presented the 16 & Loved campaign to a standing-room only crowd, exploring campaign goals, media reaction, and lessons learned. You can watch the whole panel discussion below [a new browser window will open]:

Panel attendees also helped generate quite a bit of buzz on social media about the presentation while it was happening, and you can read some of their Tweets below:

Thank you to all who attended and helped us grow the conversation through social media and beyond! If you’re not already following Exhale on Twitter and Facebook, we hope you’ll join us there in the Pro-Voice

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