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This April, Exhale is celebrating our 2nd Annual Abortion Wellbeing Month to bring attention to each individual’s unique experience with abortion, and to recognize that emotional wellbeing is possible for every person who experiences one.

Yes, as women who have had abortions we hear a lot about what we should feel about our abortions and we know what it’s like when our voices and needs get sidestepped. And yet, we find ways to give our abortions personal meaning and to feel whole. Together, we can raise awareness that emotions of all kinds after abortion are normal; and that feeling heard, supported and respected – without judgment – is important to the wellbeing of every woman who has an abortion.

Throughout the month of April 2011, let’s celebrate our wellbeing and work together to:

  • Acknowledge each person’s unique experience with abortion;
  • Draw attention to ways to support and respect women who have had abortions;
  • Promote loving connection, with friends and family, as well as between women who have had abortions.

Join us!

Connect Online: Blog for Abortion Wellbeing. Tell your friends about it. Follow Exhale on Facebook and Twitter throughout the month for more updates, and keep up on this blog for guest posts on abortion and wellbeing.

Connect In-Person: Join us on Wednesday, April 27th for the San Francisco Bay Area premiere of filmmaker Lindsay Ellis’ “The A Word,” an irreverent and deeply personal Pro-Voice chronicle of how her abortion had an impact on her life, and those she loves.

Let us know what you’re doing to support Abortion Wellbeing! Email us at info@4exhale.org to tell us about your Pro-Voice action or to offer your support.

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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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Last week, Steph Herold, the pro-choice activist behind IAmDr.Tiller launched a Twitter campaign to get women to come out about their abortions, using #ihadanabortion. Emily Douglas at The Nation invited us both to exchange our thoughts and ideas about the role of public abortion storytelling for changing the debate.

Read our exchange: “I Had An Abortion” in 140 Characters or Less: An Exchange with Steph Herold and Aspen Baker.

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Exhale is proud to honor Susan Lehman with the 2010 Rachel Falls Compassion Award.

In her time with Exhale, Susan has served as a talkline counselor, online community moderator and a Pro-Voice Ambassador.  Susan is a well-respected counselor whose peers use terms like “warm heart” and “unflagging compassion” to describe her mentorship and contributions to our callers, and the greater Pro-Voice community.  I have been inspired by Susan’s thoughtfulness and commitment to everything she puts her minds to and I am honored for the opportunity to work beside her at Exhale.

The Rachel Falls Compassion Award was created in 2008 to honor a very dear friend and ally of Exhale: Rachel Falls. The Hotline Director at the National Abortion Federation, Rachel passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. Rachel was a true pro-voice champion: she integrated post-abortion counseling into NAF’s services, collaborated with Exhale staff to train others in the field, and became a vocal advocate for promoting the emotional wellbeing of women who have had abortions. The award is given once a year to a talkline counselor who best embodies the spirit and values of Rachel Falls: exuberance, strength, empathy, commitment, vision, and compassion. Only fellow talkline counselors can nominate the potential winner.   Past awardees include Elsa Valmidiano, who you can read about in our zine (pg.7), and Jan.

In honor of her award, I sat down with Susan to ask her a few questions about her experience with Exhale as a volunteer. Here is what she said.

What first brought you to Exhale?

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In celebration of our 5th Anniversary of expanded service, Exhale presented a very special award – our “Pro-Voice High-Five” – to five individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to creating a more supportive and respectful social climate for women who have had abortions.  You can read all about the awardees here.

We celebrated our anniversary and all the awardees in an intimate San Francisco ceremony at the end of August.

Here’s a glimpse:

Board President Jen Rudy celebrates the announcement of fellow board member Julie Davidson-Gomez that we have surpassed our summer fundraising goal!

Tracy Weitz and Kate Cockrill from ANSIRH celebrate their award for New Research with a High-Five!

Amy Hill from the Center for Digital Storytelling celebrates her award for Leadership with Julie.

Julie Evans accepts the award for Courage from Jen in honor of all women who have told their abortion story.

Exhale Friends

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My name is Erika Jackson and I have been a volunteer at Exhale for two-and-a-half years. I started as a talkline counselor and I’ve been a moderator in the Online Community since it launched last year.  I know how important Exhale is to the women we serve, which is why I just donated $50 to celebrate our 5th Anniversary of expanded service.

I’m writing to invite you join me by making your own contribution to Exhale today. We are just $2,000 away from reaching our $15,000 goal, and I know that with your donation, we will ge there by Tuesday, August 31st!  Every donation makes a big difference.

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Yes, it’s true that abortion is stigmatized and that the voices of those who have had them are often hidden and neglected.  We rarely hear them in public discussion.  But that doesn’t mean that personal abortion stories are never shared. They are.  Lots of them.

To hear personal abortion stories, you have to be willing to listen and show up when, where and how a woman wants to be heard, on each woman’s terms.  You have to literally “meet her where she’s at” including the forums she chooses.

Despite the great risks that can come with sharing a personal story, thousands of women make this choice everyday.  A woman makes the choice – and faces the risk – every time she seeks support from her friends, faith, family or community.  She makes the choice and faces the risk when she picks up the phone and calls the Exhale talkline. Or she joins the online community.  Or she accepts abortion doula services.  Or she answers questions from a researcher.  Or she completes a digital storytelling workshop.   There are many stories to be told and many ways for a woman to tell hers.  However a woman chooses to share her story, she must be recognized and honored for her unique experience.

Exhale honors the Courage of every woman who has ever made the choice to share her story.

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