Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Abortion, Aspen Baker, Counseling, Culture War, Exhale, Justice, NonJudgment, Peace, Pro-Voice, Stigma on February 11, 2010|
Leave a Comment »
I had the pleasure of speaking at the Western Regional Conference for Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) at UCLA on Sunday, January 31st.
I started my presentation by doing something I never do, which is to outline what it was I would *not* be talking about. I’m not a lawyer or a policy advocate so I let them know I wouldn’t be speaking about rights or the law. Instead, I talked about the growing pro-voice movement and the importance of building a cultural climate that supports and respects each individuals unique experience with abortion. I talked about the role of stories, comforting those who have been stigmatized and the need to build community. I talked about the danger of a single story, shame and advocacy.
When a woman’s story with abortion is only seen as a tool to be used to further political goals, we erode the strength of our own social movement. Pro-Voice is a public stand with each and every woman who has had an abortion, no matter how much her story makes us uncomfortable. We are for all the stories.
Lauren Mendonsa, a Law Student and Member of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, was present and wrote a blog post in response to the question I posed to the group:
“What do you think is the role of law students and the legal community in creating a more supportive and respectful social climate around abortion?”
I don’t have a good answer to Aspen’s question, but it has prompted self-reflection and criticism of my profession, which teaches its members to speak on behalf of our clients, emphasizing the “good” facts, minimizing the “bad,” and discarding the irrelevant. A supportive environment around abortion requires listening to women’s stories without an ear toward the legal hook, and refraining from ascribing our own values to the details. I need to work on this, and I’m going to encourage my peers and colleagues to do the same. As the decades since Roe v. Wade have shown, a legal right to abortion does little to engender support for women who choose to have one.
I look forward to a pro-voice future where reproductive justice lawyers like Ms. Mendonsa take an active role in creating a social climate that is able and willing to listen and learn from all abortion stories.
Read Full Post »
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Abortion, Aspen Baker, Culture War, Exhale, Justice, Leadership, Oakland, Peace, Pro-Voice, Stigma, Success, Vision on November 30, 2009|
Leave a Comment »
On November 28, 2009, the New York Times Sunday edition featured an editorial “In Support of Abortion, It’s Personal vs. Political” in the Week in Review. While there were some things I liked about this editorial, there was much to dislike. First and foremost being the fact that Post-Roe women are defined only by what we have NOT experienced, not defined by what we have experienced. Instead of going on and on about what bugged me about this article, I decided instead to re-write it, the way that I believe it should be written. This article reflects elements of my vision for how the changing landscape of the abortion debate should be investigated and reported. This is a work of fiction, which means I have created new lines of dialogue and quotes from actual people listed in the original article – what I wish they would say from a strength and asset-based perspective, instead of the deficit-approach featured.
“In Support of Wellbeing, Abortion Matters to Women & Families”
By Cheryl Straight Stobilt
In 1999, an airline pilot’s daughter named Aspen Baker was attending college in Northern California when she had a safe and legal abortion at a local hospital. She had been raised a pro-life Christian in Southern California and while she never believed she could make a pregnancy decision for another person, she never believed she would have an abortion herself, until she did. While she was relieved when the procedure was finally over, she found herself with a lot of difficult emotions about the experience and because of the stigma and politics surrounding her decision she was unable to find someone who would listen to her, without judgment or bias.
Today, Aspen Baker is the Founder and Executive Director of Exhale, an organization whose mission is to create a more supportive and respectful social climate around personal experiences with abortion and which runs a national, multilingual post-abortion talkline. At 33-years old, Baker is a member of what many feminist leaders call the “Third Wave,” though Ms. Baker rarely uses the term herself.
Read Full Post »
Recently, I got an email response about the soon-to-be-launched private Exhale Online Community for women who have had abortions, from a woman who worried that a “private online space” created more shame, not less. I shared with her Exhale’s belief that nonjudgmental support for women post-abortion is the best antidote to shame. Literally, within minutes I took the time to watch the following speech given by Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton professor, about Race, Shame and Stigma.
In her speech Melissa says: Respect Counter Shames
She also gives the following directions for how to counter the feeling of shame:
– We should not force people to be open about their personal experiences, but instead soothe them.
– We should create communities of respect and knowledge across difference.
– And that to push people to speak out, to be public, in fact creates more anxiety and increases the need to withdraw.
– Our goals should be not to prove that we are right, but to listen carefully to what people are saying.
And finally, we must encourage and allow for Voice.
A strong case for Exhale’s Pro-Voice mission, I’d say.
Thank you Melissa!
Read Full Post »
Abortion: The Serious Health Decision Women Aren’t Talking About Until Now
“In the end there’s little drama to the procedure, but that doesn’t make it a simple experience. How could it be, when abortion inspires culture-quaking political and religious debates and feels too charged to discuss, even woman to woman? “No one talks about abortion on a personal level—there’s too much stigma attached,” says Aspen Baker, the cofounder of Exhale, an after-abortion counseling help line.”
““The procedure is unsettling, because they basically vacuum out your uterus. It was painful, but I knew it was the right choice and I had no guilt afterward.” This is not unusual, says Baker: “I cannot tell you how many women call us wondering if they are somehow bad people for feeling relieved, or happy, or proud for having made it through a difficult decision.”
“Yet in Glamour interviews, counselors, medical experts and more than two dozen women who have had the procedure agreed that women don’t discuss how they decided whether or not to end a pregnancy—how it felt and how they recovered, physically and emotionally; how they look back on their choice as time passes. The result is that millions of women grapple alone with the decision and the emotions that come afterward. Adamantly pro-choice women may be shocked by their own sadness about having an abortion whereas extremely religious women may be stunned by their sense of relief; both reactions, experts say, are normal”.
“Every woman who faces the abortion decision deserves a friend’s arms around her”
““I was raised Christian, and had already asked God to forgive me, but I couldn’t forgive myself,” she says. Distraught, Lisa wrestled with her emotions and more depression until she found an abortion recovery bible study group. “I came to a place of acceptance,” she says. “I would give anything to go back, but I can’t. Instead, I choose to forgive myself and to move forward.”
“Physically, the abortion wasn’t painful, but emotionally, it was hell. I didn’t talk to anyone but my husband and doctor about it for a long time. When I finally told my brother, he said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to hug you when you came home.”
“My abortion was not painful, but I am wistful about losing the physical sensation of being pregnant. I never realized how a baby could get into a woman’s blood—I still feel a connection to that little lima bean. My husband and I want to have a baby one day—but it will be planned.”
FYI: There is another Baker covered in the article, Anne, of no relation to me, and they don’t distinguish our quotes very well.
Read Full Post »