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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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Today, I shared the following statement with Exhale’s Pro-Voice Supporters by email:

Dear Friends of Exhale,

Yesterday, a champion for women’s health and well-being, Dr. George Tiller, was murdered at his church in Wichita, Kansas. I am deeply saddened by this violent act and the tragic and unnecessary loss of his life. On behalf of everyone at Exhale, I extend our condolences to his family and friends, and to the community of abortion care providers who have supported and been inspired by Dr. Tiller’s commitment to compassionate care.

Dr. George Tiller, along with his staff at Women’s Health Care Services, provided excellent emotional care to their abortion patients. In-depth counseling, religious and spiritual guidance, time for reflection and trusted referrals to meet a range of patients needs are standard practice at his clinic. Their long-standing commitment to promoting the emotional well-being of their patients is a model of support and respect for each person’s unique experience with abortion. I am proud to say that Women’s Health Care Services was one of the first clinics to refer to Exhale.

I, along with other staff and volunteers of Exhale, have had the honor of meeting Dr. Tiller and his staff on several occasions, and the warmth of their hearts and their compassion for others shines brightly through their very presence, as well as their words and actions. I was struck by his commitment to his practice in the face of adversity, and that he continued to approach his work with love and abundance, not resentment or sacrifice. Exhale has sought to follow his lead to work joyfully without malice and in partnership with the women we serve. This is perhaps our greatest lesson and his greatest legacy. Thank you, Dr. Tiller.

Today, we at Exhale appreciate the enormous contributions of Dr. Tiller and the staff of Women’s Health Care Services to patient emotional care. We are inspired by his unwavering commitment to follow his passion and his heart in order to be of service to those in need. And, we remain dedicated to our mission of a social climate where every woman who has an abortion is supported and respected, and where she can live free of the fear, violence and intimidation that Dr. Tiller lived with every day.

In peace,
Aspen Baker

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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.

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*** UPDATE 2-20-09***
Read my latest post on the loss of Rhianna’s privacy here

After several quotes and videos showing celebrities not taking the issue of possible violence by Chris Brown against Rhianna seriously, we’re finally starting to see some step up and take a stand AGAINST violence and judgment and FOR support, healing and accountability.

All from People.com

Kerry Washington:

At a luncheon in Beverly Hills for V-Day, The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler’s movement to end violence against women and girls: “If we talk about violence against women, my hope is we don’t talk about it as petty gossip but as a social illness that must end. So if that’s what’s going on, then we need to all be aware this is a problem that goes from the Congo to Hollywood and everywhere in between,”

John Legend:

“It’s an awful story,” he said. “I feel terrible for both of them but if Chris did what they said he did, that’s unacceptable. He has to accept the consequences of it.”

Will Smith:

If there are mistakes people make, then they should be willing to live up to the mistakes and do whatever penance they need to do.

Jay-Z:

“This is a real situation,..You have to have compassion for others. Just imagine it being your sister or mom and then think about how we should talk about that…I just think we should all support her. She’s going through a tough time. You have to realize she’s a young girl, as well. She’s very young.”

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Every recipe taken from one episode of Down Home With the Neely’s on Food Network: Balsamic Spinach, Garlic Grits and Short Ribs. Delicious!!!

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*** UPDATE 2-20-09***
Read my latest post on the loss of Rhianna’s privacy here

***UPDATE 2-15-09***
Read Chris Brown’s statement
Read what caring celebrity voices are saying against violence and for accountability.

I had just settled in with a glass of wine to watch the end of the grammy’s red carpet when I heard Ryan Seacrest say something about Rhianna and Chris canceling their appearance and performances, but he was very vague on the reason. I jumped onto TMZ and got the gossip: Chris had beat up Rhianna.

Here’s what I read:

Chris Brown Investigated for Alleged Assault

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ Chris Brown is being investigated by the LAPD in an alleged assault on a female.

According to police, Brown and a woman whom cops refuse to identify were arguing inside a vehicle around 12:30 this morning when suddenly things allegedly turned violent.

Cops say they received a 911 call, and when they arrived they noticed the woman had visible injuries. We’re told she then identified Brown as her attacker. Cops say Brown had left the scene by the time police arrived.

Cops say they are looking to speak with Brown and may arrest him when they find him.

When we called reps for Brown’s girlfriend, Rihanna, for a statement, her people told us, “Rihanna is well. Thank you for your concern and support.”

UPDATE: Grammy officials have just announced that Rihanna will neither perform on the show tonight — as scheduled — nor walk the red carpet for the event. The same announcement has been made about Chris.

Then Rolling Stone:

And I started to read stuff like this:

Well he can assault ME if we want, I wouldn’t mind at all!!

Besides, that damn girlfriend of his..Rihanna…is driving him NUTS with her insecurity and possessiveness. He’s too young to be tied down Rihanna!!!!!! The sun does not rise and shine in YOUR poontang!

Poor fellow. He got mixed up with a Third World Witch. Wow. She drove him to the edge with her controlling azz! He shoulda stuck to the fine American-bred girls instead of that Islander trash.

My daddy always said…’When you play in trash, it’ll get in your eyes’. Hang in there Chris. You’re the only one in that relationship with talent! Don’t let her take you down to her level….TRASH.

Wow. A woman gets beat up and its her fault? The fans come out to support him? It gets worse, and worse, and worse….

Afrobella writes for many:

Take a gander at any of the popular gossip blogs right now, and read those comments if you want to feel your blood pressure rise. I’m not about to link to any of the posts that REALLY got my goat, but I need to get this off my chest. As a proud Trinidadian woman, a West Indian woman, a woman from the islands… I do NOT appreciate the stereotypes that are being thrown around by commenters seeking to condone or explain this act of violence.

Finally, Kanye West tells Ryan Seacrest, in support of Rhianna:

“[Rihanna] has the potential to be, you know, the greatest artist of all time and, in that sense, I feel like [she is] my baby sis,” added West. “I would do any and everything to help her in any situation.”

“I feel like, just as a person, I don’t care how famous she is or even if she just worked at McDonald’s, that should never happen. It should never come to that, to that place.”

Not to mention, big, big privacy questions. Typically the names of domestic violence survivors, or other survivors of sexual or intimate violence, are not released. But the LATimes decided to print Rhianna’s name anyways, stating:

“The Times has a blanket policy when it comes to not naming victims of sexual assault. There isn’t a set policy when it comes to physical assault or a criminal threat. In that case, there’s a decision internally and on a case-by-case basis of whether to name somebody. In this case, obviously there was a discussion among the editors about this. The nature of this case – against the backdrop of the Grammy’s, the delay in changing things, the explanations put out by both camps – the decision was made that this was fair game.”

Emily comments on the Bitch Magazine blog:

I think that it’s very important for people to consider the lack of privacy Rihanna is receiving right now.

So, what do I think about it all?

I think its awfully sad. I think violence between people that love each other is always sad and awful, and even though I know how common domestic violence is (in teen relationships, adult ones, with famous people, rich folks, poor folks, gay folks, in brown and white communities and everyone else), it doesn’t make it any less worse for those who experience it and those who witness it.

And right now, we are all witnesses.

I think the reactions that are happening online about this very famous couple mirrors what happens in real life – it is so hard for us to believe that someone we know, care about and/or admire could hurt someone else that we jump through all kinds of hoops in our mind to make it not so. It is so hard for us to believe that someone we trust could intentionally and violently hurt someone else, that we make up excuses and reasons on their behalf, even when it means we deny the pain and experience of someone else.

Denial is such a common reaction – it was denied for years that priests could molest boys, denied that workplace sexual harassment was wrong, that date rape is in fact actual rape, and on, and on, and on…Denial allows us to make-believe that we are safe and that it is someone else’s problem. Denial prevents us from action, from taking responsibility, for trying to make something better. As each one of us witnesses the violence of this relationship, many of us are responding with denial online.

I worked at domestic violence agency that worked with men – straight and gay men who had hurt their partners and lovers. We ran batterer intervention programs with the belief that violent men can unlearn their ways. We saw how the cycle of violence can repeat itself across generations and I met men bound and determined to not teach their children what they learned. It is a hard road.

And it is possible.

I believe Kevin Powell sums it up best:

Given all the hype and controversy around Chris Brown’s alleged beating of Rihanna, I feel compelled to post this essay I originally wrote in late 2007, so that some of us can have an honest jump off point to discuss male violence against females, to discuss the need for ownership of past pains and traumas, to discuss the critical importance of therapy and healing. Let us pray for Rihanna, first and foremost, because no one deserves to be beaten, or beaten up. No one. And let us also pray that Chris Brown gets the help he needs by way of long-term counseling and alternative definitions of manhood rooted in nonviolence, real love, and, alas, real peace. And let us not forget that Rihanna and Chris Brown happen to be major pop stars, hence all the media coverage, blogs, etc. Violence against women and girls happens every single day on this planet without any notice from most of us. Until we begin to address that hard fact, until we all, males and females alike, make a commitment to ending the conditions that create that destructive behavior in the first place, it will not end any time soon. There will be more Rihannas and more Chris Browns.

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If you’re on Facebook, or been around online social networking for awhile, chances are you know all about 25 Random Things About Me. Or, maybe you just read about it in the NYT or Time. I wrote my own and I read what my friends write. Most of them are actually pretty interesting, but I’m probably biased, cause I think my friends are downright fascinating.

Lately, though, I’ve been a bit freaked out by some of the things I share with my friends. For example:

My friend Kate and I have both day-dreamed about Laura Ingalls Wilder taking a time machine to the future so that we could take her on a guided tour of the modern world.

My friend Nisha and I both think tomatoes are GROSS.

My friend Aimee and I both spent a summer (possibly the same summer though we are different ages), reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a book that forever changed each of our lives.

My friend Maureen and I prefer cilantro to all other herbs. Me and Franz both like Hawaiian pizza best and Connor and I share a love of beef.

OK, well, some of them aren’t exactly freak-out worthy, but clearly my friends and I share a passion for sharing about our food likes and dislikes. This information will help me in deciding whose dinner invitation to accept.

But some of my friends random things have given me new insights into why I feel particularly bonded to them despite us having very different life experiences in so many other ways. Things I thought were special and unique to me are in fact shared by others. Talk about a life lesson. We are typically less alone in our pain than we think, and in fact, less alone in our joys. Milestones big and small can be shared with others and bring deeper meaning and connection with those we love.

I like thinking about me and Aimee reading the same book, at the same time, even though we didn’t know each other, and considering how this book shaped who we are and how we came to be friends with one another. I like imagining Kate and I as kids sitting in the backseats of different cars in different states looking out the window and seeing the world through the eyes of our heroine Laura Ingalls. These seemingly random things make up how we look at the world, and who we’ve become, and which friends we make. I wish I could go back in my own time machine to tell little Aspen that one day she will meet some really awesome people that will make her adult life interesting and fun.

Oh…and by the way, my high-school basketball jersey number was always 25.

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