I founded Exhale in 2000 with four other women. I was 24-years old and a recent college graduate with a resume that included 14-years worth of jobs doing newspaper delivery, babysitting, waitressing, hostessing, baristing, bartending, housekeeping, and a short stint running the front office of an Alaskan bush-flying service. After completing 5-years of college (from three schools in two states), I was ready to continue with my life’s adventures and was working on landing a new job in Antarctica.
But, then, something I did not expect happened. I got pregnant. Then, I had an abortion. And I personally experienced how the politics of the debate had left women and their loved ones behind. The debate seemed less to do with exploring the role of abortion in our lives and more about trying to prove the other side wrong. I wondered what was possible if this trend was abandoned and replaced by efforts to build something positive and life-affirming.
I decided to try. The something eventually became Exhale and ten years later I am proud to continue serving as its Executive Director.
The story of my abortion and how it led me to found Exhale is well-documented, but this story is just one small piece of what has led me to build an effective organization with such a unique mission. The last ten years have been filled with enormous challenge, breathtaking inspiration, rigorous work and intense self-reflection towards my goal of practicing sustainable leadership with impact.
I have learned a lot about leadership. Leadership is not a paid position, a reward for doing something special, or another way to describe being in charge. Leadership is earned when we take responsibility and give top performance in everything we do. It has been a rewarding ten years of leadership at Exhale and I am thrilled to share some of what I’ve learned, overcome and celebrated.
Here are my Top 10 Leadership Highlights at Exhale in the 000’s.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Abortion, Aspen Baker, Culture War, Exhale, Justice, Leadership, Oakland, Peace, Pro-Voice, Stigma, Success, Vision on November 30, 2009|
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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.
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One of my Exhale co-founders, Carolina De Robertis, started working on her first novel about the same time we founded the organization. Nine years later, that novel, The Invisible Mountain, is now available. It’s getting great reviews from Elle, Publisher’s Weekly and more. It’s a story about 3 generations of Uruguayan women and I was lucky to be one of the first readers on the first draft many years ago.
“Marvelous…bold…filled with songs both ecstatic and tragic.”
– Cristina García, author of Dreaming in Cuban
“Incantatory…This visionary book beautifully, bravely opens all the old secrets.”
– Lisa Shea, Elle
“Enchanting, funny, and heartbreaking…extraordinary”
– Publishers Weekly
– Kirkus Reviews
I cannot be more proud and excited for Carolina’s tremendous accomplishment. I’ve never met a more disciplined writer, confident in her craft, lyrical in her approach, and thoughtful with her characters. I cannot imagine the huge challenge of writing such a beautiful novel and the thrill of success that I hope she is able to experience in every moment.
I hope you buy it, read it and love it!
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