Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Voice High-Five’

Kassi Underwood, a Pro-Voice Ambassador, has written about her personal experience with abortion in two major newspapers this year.   As a community of people with personal abortion experiences, we stand beside Kassi and provide her with our unconditional love and support.   We look forward to reading her memoir about her search for post-abortion therapies.

On Monday, May 2, 2011 in the New York Daily News, Kassi wrote in “Get Your Politics Off My Grief”:

Contorting rich experiences and complex emotions into partisan slogans shames women who do not “feel” within their political lines, separating us into distinct, sometimes-opposing groups that struggle to relate to one another. Pro-voice is an antidote to the alienating ills of America’s abortion culture.

Here’s a right I’d march for: the right to wail myself to sleep, to yearn for my long gone baby, yet to know that I needed to delay parenthood. Transcending heartache is possible as long as I keep my story unabridged – and out of the political sphere.

On July 28, 2011, Kassi went further, sharing more details about her experience with abortion in the Modern Love column of the New York TimesKassi shared in “A Lost Child, But Not Mine”:

With sobriety and a salary, I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby that wasn’t, a loss somehow made more painful by his baby that was. I spent my workdays browsing photos of his little girl, believing in some twisted respect that I was glimpsing the face of the child I could have had. On lunch breaks, I went home to cry in bed, longing for a paranormal miracle.

By the time I called him, his daughter was about to celebrate her first birthday. He was living at a halfway house in Boston, where my company was flying me for a conference. I harbored a secret motive to find out if he dwelled on the loss as much as I did, so I asked him if he would meet me….

THE heat of summer hung down on our shoulders when we hugged on the bustling street corner. As we parted, I walked up Gloucester Street toward the conference center; he headed toward the pickup truck he’d borrowed from a friend at the halfway house.

In the three years since, he has spent much of his time incarcerated for drug-related offenses. I wish I could share my sobriety, my degree and my career to rent that apartment for his little girl, but reality has finally sunk in: the abortion is mine alone, just like Jade is his.

These two articles demonstrate how each person’s story with abortion has multiple layers, with diverse ways to share about such an intimate experience.   Show your support to Kassi and follow her on twitter: @KassiUnderwood.


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*Guest Post by Pro-Voice High-Five Awardee for New Thinking: Eyal Rabinovitch*

“Do you find most public discourse on abortion painful?” This was the opening question on the invitation to the recent two-day “Open Hearts/Open Minds” conference that invited pro-life and pro-choice advocates and scholars to Princeton University to be in respectful and open conversation with one another. Several months earlier, I had offered my personal answer (“yes… very”) to that question in the form of a essay on an organization called Exhale and the pro-voice approach to abortion it’s been championing in recent years.

In an entrenched social conflict like abortion, I argued, the extreme polarization and bitterness of the conflict is more than painful – it’s downright destructive. Let me offer just a few examples here. For starters, people who have something to say that don’t fit into the points of view of those two sides are drowned out and neglected. Voices of complexity, moderation, or conciliation – including the voices of people dealing directly with abortion in their lives – are not tolerated, leaving out whatever contributions they might have to make toward better policies or greater understanding. Beyond that, the increasing polarization prevents both activists and policy makers from listening to one another’s actual arguments, understanding one another’s concerns, or working together collaboratively on points of mutual interest. At the same time, the public at large increasingly gets turned off by waves of demonizing rhetoric and oversimplifications. Sick of hearing the same angry conversation over and over again, people tune out and stop engaging in a social issue of great importance.

By contrast, a pro-voice approach argues for rooting our public conversation in the full complexity of people’s actual experiences with abortion rather than the caricatures and one-dimensional language that dominates the public conversation. A pro-voice orientation emphasizes creating space for people to share and listen to one another’s experiences with abortion not as a way to create ammunition for one ideological side or the other, but to rehumanize, revatilize, and de-polarize this crucial and profound social issue. As a student and practitioner of conflict transformation – a subfield of conflict studies focused on changing how we engage in our disagreements so that we can advocate for our values without destroying our own dignity or the dignity of those with whom we disagree – I embrace Exhale’s pro-voice vision and believe it can play a foundational role on a long-term path towards meaningful, restorative culture change on abortion.


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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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In celebration of our 5th Anniversary of expanded service, Exhale is excited to present 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.

Our “Pro-Voice High-Five” Awards go toooooo……(drumroll please)….:

I invite you to read the interviews of each of our awardees to learn more about their passion and commitment to creating something positive, purposeful and powerful for every woman who has experienced abortion.

Congratulations to all of our “Pro-Voice High-Five” Awardees!

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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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For over eight years, Exhale has been a confidential listener to the stories  of thousands of women and men, after an abortion.  Yet, rarely are these voices heard in public discussion.  Thus, the evolution of our pro-voice agenda that aims to transform public dialogue so that it is grounded in the voices and experiences of people who have had abortions.

But, how do we go from confidential listening to public storytelling around abortion given the great risks women and men face if they share their story with abortion?

Enter our partnership with the Center for Digital Storytelling who is the leader on how to do storytelling around stigmatized or sensitive issues in ways that empower and support storytellers.  We were honored to learn from them in a recent digital storytelling workshop we held where women told their stories of listening and abortion.

We are honored to give a “Pro-Voice High-Five” to the Center for Digital Storytelling for Leadership.  I hope you enjoy my interview with its Executive Director, Joe Lambert, and the Director of their Silence Speaks program, Amy Hill.

Staff of the Center for Digital Storytelling

Aspen: Tell me about how the Center for Digital Storytelling came to exist and about your mission.


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Last year, Exhale made our case before the National Institutes of Health about the importance of research to promote the wellbeing of women who have abortions.  An often overlooked field of study that is incredibly difficult to fund, the wellbeing of women who have had abortions is generally not at the top of many research agenda’s, let alone on the agenda at all.  Enter the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) Program at the University of California, San Francisco led by Tracy Weitz.  Despite the great obstacles they face to find funding on this topic, they have taken the initiative to launch new investigations into the social and emotional aspects of abortion.

Exhale is honored to give a “Pro-Voice High-Five” to ANSIRH for New Research.  I hope you enjoy my interview with Kate Cockrill, the Project Director for Abortion and Stigma.

Kate Cockrill and Tracy Weitz

Aspen: What is ANSIRH? (more…)

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