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Archive for May, 2010

*Guest Post by Alison Cole*

I discovered the power of listening to pregnant women during my five years as a paramedical worker in an abortion clinic.  The conversations I had with women prior to their abortions were “patient education,” but I asked every patient, every time: “How are you feeling about being here today?” and I listened to the answers they gave for as long as they needed.

Some women assumed everyone felt the same way as them.  Others assumed their feelings about the abortion were unique among all women.  Women would describe the children they had to feed, jobs they could not lose, birth control which had failed, educations they wanted to pursue, and unhealthy relationship they did not want to turn into dysfunctional families. I very rarely saw a woman whose reasons for not wanting to have a child were not totally understandable to me, and I told them that.  In the last few minutes of patient education, I told them what happens during an abortion procedure, what they were likely to experience physically, and the statistics on physical health complications.

During these conversations, conversations where I mostly listened as women talked, I saw how the truth can set people free. (more…)

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*Guest Post by Lauren Guy-McAlpin*

I’m a coordinator for the Spectrum Doula Collective, a central-NC based project that offers free, compassionate care to women across the spectrum of pregnancy. This includes birth, adoption, miscarriage, stillbirth, fetal anomaly, and of course, abortion. Founded in the vein of the NY-based Doula Project, SDC is a forming coalition of reproductive justice advocates who believe all pregnant persons’ thoughts, experiences, and memories are valid and should be honored.

Honoring a pregnant person’s experiences is integral to embodying a pro-voice ideology. We can identify as “pro-choice” in our personal lives all we want; we can engage in those formulaic arguments about when life begins, advocate for public policy regarding abortion access, and take to the streets when we feel reproductive rights on the whole are being violated. But when we’re one-on-one with a person or family that’s experiencing abortion (or any pregnancy outcome) themselves, all personal biases must be left at the door. At the crux of doula work, and abortion doula’ing is no different, is personal advocacy. If that means supporting a woman who believes an abortion took the life of her baby, so be it.

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I co-presented a session workshop – “Becoming a Learning Organization” – with Brian Talcott of the Center for Civic Partnerships (CCP) at The California Wellness Foundation’s (TCWF) conference on Organizational Learning and Evaluation in San Francisco last week.

Brian Talcott and me

Brian and I worked together when Exhale received TCWF-funded technical assistance from CCP back in 2006 and 2007.  With their support, Exhale was able to ratchet-up our evaluation practices and by working with top-notch evaluation experts, we began to consider methods and tools to measure Exhale’s impact on our culture change goals.

One of the many gifts we received through the program was learning that Exhale was, and always has been, a Learning Organization.  Here’s the theory:

According to LFA Group, a Learning Organization “uses evaluation as a fundamental strategy for gathering information for reflection, learning and growth in order to drive internal improvement.”

Michael O’Brien, an organizational consultant says that Learning Organizations “weave a continuous and enhanced capacity to learn, adapt and change into the fabric of its character and has values, policies, practices, programs, systems and structures that support and accelerate organizational learning.”

As the leader of Exhale, I have found becoming a Learning Organization to be very freeing.

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Julie Davidson-Gomez, longtime Exhale board member, wrote an article for Conscience magazine, the NewsJournal of Catholic Opinion, published by Catholics for Choice.   You can find her article on page 30 of the magazine.

In her article Julie writes about how Pro-Voice helped her come to terms with her identities as a  Catholic Latina and a progressive political activist:

My salvation, as it were, came in the form of a secular intervention…While I didn’t have a personal abortion story, I immediately connected with the stories of isolation, fear of judgment and leading dual lives due to their abortion experiences.  I recognized the power that sharing individual, authentic stories might have in transforming the social stigma surround abortion. ..In working with these women, I was able to stop straddling what I believe to be two divergent worlds.  I finally stood firmly in one world, able to acknowledge its complexity and seeming contradictions.  I regained my ability to discern as a member of a vibrant and diverse faith community.  In the true spirit of the word catholic, this work has provoked a deep reexamination of my faith formation, and beckoned me to cultivate a more inclusive and universal appreciation for church teachings.  The fundamental shift that I seek begins with compassionate hearts and open minds.  It begins with me.

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Learn about author Eyal Rabinovitch. Read what people are saying about the paper. Download the paper as a PDF: ExhalePeacePaperbyERabinovitch5-3-10.

Sections include:

  • Introduction and Overview
  • The Limits of an Interest-Based Common Ground: The fallacy of “both sides”  & The limits of “underlying interests”
  • From Resolution to Transformation: Cultivating Dignity Rather than Meeting Interests
  • Transforming the Abortion Conflict in America: Pro-Voice and More
  • Appendix: Learning from the Experience of Others

(more…)

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Exhale published “Can Listening to Women Who Have Had Abortions Bring Peace to the Abortion Wars?” by Eyal Rabinovitch on May 3, 2010 to great acclaim.

Read what people are saying:

“Pro-Voice is one of the most remarkable conflict transformation programs I have read about for a long time.” – Michelle LeBaron, Professor of Law and Director of the Program on Dispute Resolution at the University of British Columbia

“Reading Eyal  Rabinovitch’s paper “Can Listening to Women Who Have Had Abortions Bring Peace to the Abortion Wars” was a poignant reminder of the healing that results from being heard. Exhale is a great example of the power just listening to women’s narratives can have to transform the way in which individuals see and understand themselves and the inner peace that can bring. Exhale now asks if there is a way that women talk about abortions can lead to a transformation in the way we all think about abortion and it is the early stages of what it calls a “pro-voice” campaign . It brings the same hopefulness and creativity to that effort that it brought to its first efforts to just create a safe space where women can be listened to. The public space into which such efforts must be brought is unfortunately neither safe nor quiet. It is filled with noise and harsh competing views. It is, however, the public square, that marketplace of ideas where those with hope and creativity come to be heard as well as to listen. If past experience is any indicator of future success, Exhale is likely to gather a large and appreciative following. – Frances Kissling, visiting scholar, Center for Bioethics, UPenn. Read Aspen Baker’s interview of Frances Kissling here.

“As a student and practitioner of the bridge-building arts, I’m grateful to Exhale for their scholarship and experience.  Transforming one of the most polarizing debates in our country into a process that generates wisdom for all is a truly ground-breaking achievement.  I applaud their efforts.” – Jonah Wittkamper, Director of Search for Common Ground – USA

“Stories of personal experience expand our minds and hearts, and we need this expanded thinking and feeling in order to handle powerful debates like abortion …Pro-Voice… has the potential to challenge the public debate and spur new conversation about abortion and about how our society should deal with it.” – Mary Jacksteit, Former Director, Common Ground Network for Life and Choice, Search for Common Ground. Read Mary’s review of the paper in her blog post here.

“To center women’s real abortion experiences in all their richness and complexity presents a huge departure for all sides in terms of how abortion is discussed and fought over in this country.  Specifically, it would catalyze change politically and culturally, as well as personally.” – Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, reproductive justice leader and blogger. Read Aimee’s review of the paper in her blog post here.

“It’s a great idea!” –  Paul Rogat Loeb, author of “Soul Of a Citizen: Living With Conviction In Challenging Times” and “The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear”

“I believe in the power of authentic stories and I want abortion peace so I am ready to be a part of the peace contingent. Many questions remain, such as how we get from where we are to where we want to be, and how we can lead our organizations as part of a growing peace contingent. With support and allies, I’m ready to take the necessary steps to start to answer these critical questions.” –  Miriam Yeung, Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

“What pro-choicers can learn from the pro-voice movement is courage. We cannot let ourselves fall into the trap of arguing that women’s rights should depend on women’s conformity to a single worldview. Acknowledging the complexity of people’s direct experiences can go a long way to winning culture war battles. We’ve achieved peace, for instance, on the topic of divorce. And the reason we were able to do that is those who lived through divorce spoke about it in human, complex terms. We can bring that nuance to abortion, and we shouldn’t be afraid.” –  Amanda Marcotte blogs at Pandagon, RH Reality Check, and Double X

“It is through stories that we get to a change of heart… and [Pro-Voice] brings hope for abortion peace by offering a place for the stories to belong.  The stories belong to both sides, they belong to all of us, they are part of our community.  The stories hold the potential for peace, by listening at the very least we help people hear and at the very most, we are shifting the war on abortion.”-  Kris Miner, Executive Director, St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program. Read Kris’s review of the paper in her blog post here.

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Eyal Rabinovitch is a mediator, trainer, facilitator, and coach working with individuals, families, workplaces, and communities to transform conflict through direct, open, and empowered communication. Eyal has mediated dozens of conflicts between coworkers, youth, neighbors, business partners, family members, and criminal defendants and victims at the Safe Horizon Mediation Center in Brooklyn, where he serves on the organization’s Mediation Advisory Board. He has also consulted for non-profit organizations and leaders in planning public dialogues and programming on difficult topics, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and abortion in America. After completing his B.A. at Brown and Ph.D. in Sociology at UCLA, Eyal served as Assistant Professor from 2005-2008 at Wesleyan University and now teaches Conflict Resolution at CUNY’s Baruch College.

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