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Posts Tagged ‘Connection’

By Aspen Baker

Julie Davidson-Gómez

Susan Osborne

Jennifer Rudy

“Are all your board members this involved?” Deb, a donor in Seattle, asked me as we both waved goodbye to Julie, a board member who had just co-hosted a fundraising party at Deb’s home in November 2009.

“Yep!” I said.  “It’s very impressive,” she replied.

Impressive is a great word to describe the board service of Jennifer Rudy, Julie Davidson-Gómez and Susan Osborne.  Brought onto the board of directors as a cohort in 2005, Jen, Julie and Susan have recently left the board after successful completion of our maximum board term: two, three-year stints of service.  From their board member orientation to their transition celebration, their leadership has shaped what Exhale is today; and what we will become in the future. (more…)

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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]:

(more…)

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Jovida Ross

By Jovida Ross, Exhale’s Director of Programs

I first came out as Queer when I was 17. At first I told a few close friends; when that went OK I told more people. Then I was out socially. I told my parents; moved in with a girlfriend for the first time; and eventually I became a leader in an LGBTQ organization.

Each of those steps brought a new coming out process: mustering my courage, taking the risk to speak my truth without knowing what response I would get, and living with the consequences. I’m fortunate that my experience has been overwhelmingly positive, with very few instances of shaming or overt discrimination.

Yet still, every time I find myself in a context where people assume I am straight, I face the question of whether I should come out yet again.

As ESPN contributor Mary Buckheit recently told NPR:

Most people think of a person’s coming out as one momentous day, or one unnerving phone call home, or one blurted sentence, even. But the truth is you come out a thousand times. (more…)

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On the night that MTV’s No Easy Decision aired, Exhale’s talkline lit up! We had fourteen callers in the first hour after the special had finished broadcasting on the East Coast, even though it was midnight in that time zone.

Several counselors took calls that night. Lisa Green was one of those counselors. Exhale Director of Programs Jovida Ross asked Lisa about her experience working with Exhale through the partnership with MTV.

Jovida: What was it like to take calls on the talkline the night that “No Easy Decision” aired?

Lisa: I was ready to listen; I knew that I might be getting calls from women who were learning for the first time that they had a place to call. I consider it sacred space, and I felt like I was a part of something revolutionary that night. The calls I got were similar to calls I’ve taken at other times, except that they said they had just watched the show and were so glad to learn about Exhale.

Jovida: Did you watch the special? If so, what stood out to you about it?

Lisa: I cannot express how brave I think that Markai and her boyfriend are for sharing their experience, as with Katie and Natalia, the 2 other women who sat with Dr. Drew for the interview. I wanted more; more discussion and more about abortion approached in this manner. More stories from real women exploring real experiences that are not black and white, making tough choices that may not be what they imagined but doing what they believe is best for everybody involved; themselves, their families and their future. This is the kind of thing I hear on the talkline, and I have never seen it reflected in the media before.

Jovida: Did you read any of the 16 & Loved posts? If so, was there anything that stood out to you about the site?

Lisa: I loved that Exhale created this site. It was so positive and powerful. I expected that there would be a backlash from the airing of “No Easy Decision”, and I read just about everything I could about the show, and all the posts on 16 & Loved beforehand. Although there was some negative commentary online, for the most part it seemed like there was a great welcoming of hearing real women’s stories. This warmed my soul and made me feel positive and proud to be part of Exhale; for being a part of this important shift in dialogue.

Jovida: Is there anything you’d like to share about the counseling experience, and why or how it is meaningful for you?

Lisa: Listening to women on the hotline has seriously changed my life. Simple listening, simple non-judgmental listening, is so powerful and pure. I am somebody who obsesses about being perfect and this stops me from doing many things; I worry about things I say or ruminate about things that others wouldn’t give a second thought. For the most part, this does not happen with me on the talkline.  I can just listen; listen and help women to see themselves the way I do when I hear them talk about their tough choices and their strength, and listen to them work out what makes sense to them.

I have talked to so many women who simply amaze me with their resilience and wisdom. My favorite calls are when women come to the point where they have concluded how strong they are and they come to feel empowered. I am also always amazed that a call can begin with crying and end with laughter or taking action to seek further support.

One call that stands out in my memory is a caller who came from a very conservative family and community, who told me that this was the first time she had said the word abortion out loud. It felt wonderful to be a part of that moment with her; I got to witness her unburden herself, to release and let go of her pent-up emotion.

These moments are the heart of pro-voice. A friend of mine recently read the New York Times article [about Exhale] and she loved the idea of pro-voice and taking abortion out of the political realm. I’m proud to be a part of approaching abortion in a new way; I feel like I am a part of an emerging pro-voice movement.

I really love how [fellow Exhale counselor] Nat has phrased or defined pro-voice in one of his blog posts: That a pro-voice movement will lead to “a world where the rest of us can see abortion less as a political issue to be debated and more about abortion as an experience lived by a woman we love.”

For me, when I think about pro-voice, I find myself going back to the phrase or notion of the gray area, about breaking free from black and white thinking and embracing the multi-layered nature of most important decisions in life. Most of us live in those gray areas, our lives becoming things we didn’t imagine or living in ways that we didn’t plan for. There can be beauty in those moments. Abortion is a part of that journey for so many women. We deserve respect, and for our voices to be heard.

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Our “16 & Loved” campaign opened a forum for people to express their love to the three young women who appeared on MTV’s “No Easy Decision.” We received over 200 submissions telling Markai, Natalia and Katie, and every woman who has had an abortion that they are not alone.  They are loved.

The messages posted were inspiring, uplifting, personal, revealing, vulnerable, strong, determined, and thoughtful.  Some of the messages were simple and to the point, others were more lengthy and intricate.  Some put themselves in another woman’s shoes while others spoke from direct personal experience.  The messages of love were as diverse and unique to each writer as a personal experience of abortion can be to each woman. (more…)

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*Guest Post by Board Member, Julie Davidson-Gómez*

Leading Exhale’s year-end fundraising effort is a lot like having magical x-ray goggles. From my vantage point, I get to see the inner workings of our campaign in amazing and intricate detail. Every day, I witness the little victories and milestones that occur when a volunteer steps out of their comfort zone and reaches out to you to connect, share, and inspire.

Joining the fundraising team requires a big step, and sometimes a leap of faith, toward connecting our individual stories and beliefs to a larger organizational vision: that of a thriving pro-voice movement, financially supported by women and men who care just as much about post-abortion wellbeing, and who share our dreams for a future free from abortion stigma. (more…)

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Kate Cockrill, a researcher who studies stigma and abortion at UCSF, recently wrote about her attendance at the Princeton Open Hearts/Open Minds conference on the blog of ANSIRH (a Pro-Voice High-Five Awardee for New Research).   In contemplating the lack of women’s voices at the conference, Kate poses some good questions about the role of women who have had abortions in public discussion.  She writes:

If 1.3 million women have an abortion every year, then why is it that so few women speak publicly or even privately about their abortions? What would happen if women began to speak up? How would it change the debate? I think that it is safe to say that the prochoice movement is a movement for women who are considering abortions or need abortions. It is a legal movement oriented toward preserving the right to abortion.

Addressing the role of stigma in women’s silence, Kate writes:

Stigma is clearly a major culprit in women’s public silence about their abortions. To talk about one’s abortion publicly is to risk losing credibility on a variety of levels. But there are many other reasons that women don’t talk publicly about their abortions. Maybe the reason for their own abortion is not the reason they are attempting to highlight in their advocacy. Maybe they don’t want to upset a family member or ex-partner who might be sensitive to their decision. Maybe it feels like a private experience that they don’t want to explore publicly at that moment. Maybe it still feels raw. Maybe it just doesn’t feel salient anymore.

No matter the reason, speaking about a personal abortion experience publicly means taking on personal risk. Instead of asking where the voices are, we could work harder to reduce the risk that women incur when they speak from their own experience. We can and should be demonstrating and demanding nonjudgmental listening. We should encourage honesty and should support a range of experiences. We should not discriminate against some experiences while highlighting others. We should support private spaces for women to discuss their experiences with those who can listen and understand, better yet, people who have also “been there.” We should demand that all women have access to emotional care at the time of their abortion and after. In fact, I would argue that when these demands are absent from our advocacy, we aren’t really advocating for women who have had abortions.

Women who have abortions do not live in a world of nonjudgmental support. When their own abortion is at issue they can expect judgment, criticism and rejection.  So many women are very careful about who they share their experience with or who they seek support from. In fact if you do not personally know someone who has had an abortion, it’s most likely because you are not considered a safe person to tell. While politically-motivated public and private disclosure is encouraged by both sides of the debate, the real stories of real women are not adequately supported by either side of the public debate.  So, when women don’t come forward with their stories…we have to wonder if we’re partly to blame.

In relating how she experienced the conference, Kate summarizes:

Conversations like the ones I had at OHOM may not bring us any closer to common ground on the abortion issue; however, I think they do promote a common culture based on values that can be shared by either side. Curiosity. Dignity. Respect. Peace.

Thank you Kate!

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