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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.

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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.

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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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Dear Irene,

I was alerted to the pending release of your book, Impossible Motherhood, by a friend and when I read the summary, I thought: “Wow. That’s intense.”

I read in another article that you feared your “self-described ‘abortion addiction’ will be misunderstood” and that you only scheduled “closed-door interviews and will not do a book tour.” You also had to make “sure all public property records do not reflect [your] name, so [you] cannot be targeted at [your] home.”

You are quoted as saying: “I am worried about my safety and the hate mail.”

I just want you to know that I’m sorry you had to take these steps to protect yourself and your family (though I am very glad that you did) and I want to let you know that I’m thinking about you and wishing you well.

Beyond the real threat of physical violence that you undoubtedly face, I want to acknowledge the impact of how it can feel to have so many people judge and ridicule you for telling your story, in your own words, in your own time, in your own way. For an issue as fraught with controversy as abortion, where the only language we have is one of blame, defense and attack, talking personally about how you experienced one, or in your case, many, is unfortunately, not something most of us are used to. Most people really have no idea how to respond.

I know this is true because I too have had an abortion. This experience made me realize how ill-equipped most of our culture is to talk about the personal experience of having one which led me to found an organization called Exhale. We provide women and men a place to talk without fear of judgment. For nearly eight years, we have listened to thousands of women and men share their stories, their feelings, their needs, fears, and the hopes and dreams associated with an abortion experience through our national after-abortion talkline. Time and time again, we hear how the silence and stigma, how feeling alone and isolated, and how having no one and nowhere to turn to for comfort or care is one of the biggest obstacles for emotional wellbeing. We have found that the chance to speak one’s truth, to be believed, to be heard and supported, can be a transformative, empowering and healing process.

Another thing we have learned is how important it is for women to hear the stories of other women. Abortion is so common, but because we rarely talk about it, we lose the opportunity for connection with those who share this experience. Across the range of feelings, backgrounds, perspectives and values, something that women who have had abortions often talk about is their feeling of being alone. And yet, if they take the risk and reach out for support really bad things can happen to them (not always, lots of time people surprise us in great ways!). Things like being cut off from family and friends. Being targeted and harassed in the workplace or being shunned by your religious community are some of the experiences we hear about on our talkline. As I read the blog posts and articles (which I refuse to link to here) I can see that some pro-choice and some pro-life people think it is their right and their duty to shame, pity or judge you.

In this, you are definitely not alone. Many women have shared this experience.

This is why Exhale is pro-voice. We take a stand with every woman who has had an abortion and serve as a witness to her truth. We know your story is important and you deserve to be heard. We stand with you, Irene.

Irene, I don’t know if you’re crazy or sane, a truth-teller or an attention-grabber. I don’t know if you habitually put yourself in situations to be victimized or if this is a symbol of your personal healing and growth. You might be all of these things, or none of them. I have not even read your book.

I do care about who you are and your emotional wellbeing, and that is why it matters to me how you are treated as a woman who has had abortions and who has chosen to share her experiences publicly. While your story of repeat abortions may be shocking and your language of “abortion addict” controversial, any woman who tells her story with abortion publicly, including those stories which may be seen as sympathetic, risk similar kinds of attack. One abortion or thirty, rich or poor, brown or white, abused or safe, public abortion storytelling is never accepted.

I am very sure that is not a surprise to you. And yet, you did it anyway. For taking this risk, I cheer for you. I can’t imagine it was, or is, easy.

I don’t know that sharing our personal abortion stories will ever be easy, but surely the reactions can become a little more supportive and a little more respectful. One in three women will have an abortion in their life. It’s an incredibly common experience. For some it was the best decision, for others, the worst. Women can feel grief or heartache or hopeful and confident. There is no right or wrong way to experience abortion. It’s unique to every person.

Unfortunately, our public dialogue has not made room to hear these stories or to learn from them. It’s our mission at Exhale to change this. We seek to replace judgment with understanding and stigma with support. Not agreement or endorsement of someone’s decision or life choices. Only recognition of the very human need to be heard, and our own individual ability to meet that need.

We can all chose to listen.

I wish you and your family safety and wellness, Irene

Aspen Baker

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Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier.

Translated from the German by Barbara Harshav

Pg. 9

“Sarah Winter, who had stood outside the door of his flat at two in the morning because she didn’t know what to do with her pregnancy. He had made her tea and listened, nothing else. ‘I’m so glad I followed your advice,’ she said a week later. ‘It would have been much too early to have a baby.”

Pg. 118

“He had asked me for my address and it had been more than a courtesy towad a traveling acquaintance. In fact, they soon broke off the trip and returned to Lisbon. But that had nothing to do with me. Adriana, his older sister, had had an abortion and almost died from it. He wanted to check on it, he didn’t trust the doctor. A doctor who distrusted doctors. That’s how he was, that was Amadeu.”

Pg. 181

“Why did she go to this bungler, this backstreet abortionist. Well, she doesn’t know how awful it was for me. But everybody knows that Amadeau takes good care of you in such cases. That he doesn’t give a dam about the law when a woman’s in trouble. Etelvina and another child, that’s quite impossible. Next week, says Amadeau, we have to decide whether she has to get follow-up treatment in the hospital.

His older sister had an abortion and almost died from it, Gregorious heard Joao Eca say. It was eerie to him. Here, downstairs, Adriana sank even deeper into the past than upstairs in Amadeau’s room.”

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Abortion in Books: Echoes

Echoes

A novel by Maeve Binchy, author of Whitehorn Woods. 

Purchased at Walden Pond in Oakland.

Page 161:

“Things will change of course, but in their own time.  You can’t rush people and expect them to go at your pace.  In terms of absolutes you might be wise to hold off until the growth of acceptance is sufficient…until the ground swell of opinion has become so strong that there will be no doubt and no confusion.  That way the hurt is lessened, the debate is less sharp and the lines of love rather than the letter of the law would mold people’s attitudes…”

“She closed her eyes with relief.  In his convulted way he was telling her that he wasn’t going back to Castlebay.”

Page 223:

“”He was so handsome and kind; he had this great sense of being in charge.  Nothing could go really wrong if you told Gerry.  Fiona was lucky to have a brother like that.  Fine help poor Tommy or Ned would have been in such a predicament…

“Safe journey.  I hope…I hope Fiona’ll be all right.”

“I’m sure she will.  She’s going to give the baby for adoption, and then I suposed I’ll have to treach her something about photography.”

“About what?”

“Photography.”  He gave his familiar crooked grin.  “That’s what the whole place thinks she’s been studying for the past six months.” 

Page 325:

“Dr. Power told him the good and bad things in Castlebay.  People would  never die of lonliness, as they might in a big English city, but attitudes could be cruel, and tolerance was low.  In nearly forty years of practice here he had seen a lot of intolerance: families coldn’t cope with what they called “shame and disgrace.”

Page 344:

“Because of Angela’s letter, they had five days.  Five terrible days.  Sometimes they raged at each other, sometimes they just clung together. There were times when they were calm and worked out the alternatives.  There were no alternatives.  Sometimes Clare taunted him and said he was a Mummy’s Boy.  No other man would throw his whole career away.  Sometimes he wounded her and said that her love was meaningless and shallow if it could change because of place. True love survived whereever it lived.  They knew of a doctor Clare could go to – he had been struck off the medical register, but he did a steady practice in terminations.  Because he was a doctor, it wouldn’t be dangerous. Then they could think again.  But they never talked of that seriously.  The miracle of a child of their own seemed about the only cheerful thing in the middle of all the tears and confusion.  They would solve none of the dilemma if the baby were taken out of the picture.  The pregnancy, and having to tell both families, was not the biggest thing. 

The biggest thing was going back.

Neither of them wanted to.”

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Christine Falls

A Novel by Benjamin Black, pen name for John Banville, also wrote The Sea.

Page 174:

“Oh, all the brassers know Dolly Moran,” he said.  Quirke nodded.  Brassers were whores, he assumed, but how?  Brass nails, rhyming with tails, or was it something to do with screw? Barney’s slang seem all of his own making.  “She was the one they went to when they were in trouble.”

“What sort of trouble?”

“Up the pole – you know.”

“And she’d fix it for them? Herself?”

“They say she was a dab hand with the knitting needle.  Didn’t charge either, apparently.  Did it for the glory.”

…later, with the nuns who take care of the girls, in trouble…

“I’m sure I don’t know.  The girls who come to us have…they have already…given birth.”

“And what would have become of the babies they would have left behind them when they were sent here?”

“They would have gone to the orphanage, of course.  Or often they…These girls, Mr. Quirke,” she said coldly, they find themselves in trouble, with no one to help.  Often the families reject them.  They are sent to us.”

“Yes,” he said drily, “and I’m sure you are a  great comfort to them.”

“We do our best,” she said, “in the circumstances.  It’s all any of us can do.”

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