A new president’s first State
of the Union address does nothing less than frame the future. That first
address stakes out the goals of a new administration. Behind the scenes,
entire wars may be fought over just one sentence — because it takes
only a few words to change the course of world events.
It is time for the next president
of the United States to chart a new path in the abortion debate.
All he needs is one sentence. A sentence that shows he cares for
each person in America who has experienced one. What should that sentence be? He needs to hear the answer to that from people like you, and
people like me: people who have had abortions.
Rarely does a public discussion
include anything new on the subject of abortion. The national debate
and poll results typically follow the same trends. Yet there is
one perspective that has not been heard: the voice of each woman
who has had an abortion, and the voices of her loved ones.
It is time that we are heard.
Social stigma has forced many
women and men to keep their personal experiences a secret, and as a
result, our unique stories get lost in the debate.
For almost seven years, I have
led an organization called Exhale, which provides women and men who
have experienced abortion with something that I was not able to find
after my own: a safe, non-judgmental space in which to receive emotional
support from people who care and wish me well. Through our national,
multilingual talkline, we have listened to people of many backgrounds
and ethnicities, people who practice diverse religions or none at all,
and who hold a range of values about abortion. Their feelings
about their abortion experience are as unique as they are, and influenced
by what they have experienced in life and what they believe about the
world. As they travel the landscape of possible feelings after
an abortion, Exhale witnesses them finding their own unique paths among
the many that lead toward emotional well-being.
The most common themes we hear
from women and men are feelings of isolation and fear of judgment.
Our direct work is to help them cope, learn and grow from these experiences
as whole, thoughtful and complete people. To deepen and expand
this work and truly support all people on their path toward well-being,
we must all work to identify the shame, judgment and stigma so frequently
attached to abortion and replace them with empathy, compassion and non-judgment.
A president, especially a new
president setting goals for the next four years, has the power to influence
and inspire. That’s exactly what people hope for from their
leaders. When the next president speaks about abortion, an issue
that has deeply affected the lives of so many Americans, he’ll have
the power to help us change the discussion. He can do that simply, powerfully, by speaking one sentence, a sentence that conveys support
and respect for what we have gone through. I know what I want
to hear: "I truly believe you did your best, and I want you to
know that I care."
What do you want to hear?
’08, a video campaign produced by Exhale and RH Reality Check,
calls on all women who have had abortions to post a one-sentence video
response on YouTube that answers the following question: What should
the next president say to convey his support and his respect for your
personal experience with abortion?
Join the conversation. Here’s
- Watch my call
to action on YouTube.
- Upload a video
of yourself saying the one sentence you want to hear.
- Post a comment
with the sentence you want to hear.
One sentence can change the course
of world events. Let’s change the course of the abortion debate
and create a new discussion – one based on support and respect for each
person’s own unique experience with abortion.
Want to join the conversation? Instructions on posting a video on YouTube are available here.