Getting Emotionally Involved

When President Obama called for Americans to find “common ground” in the abortion debate, I thought of Exhale and our message of pro-voice.  I know we can all stand on common ground, because I see it under our feet. 
On May 27, 2009, I and fellow Pro-Voice Ambassadors stood together on that common ground and advocated for research that supports the emotional well-being of each woman who has had an abortion.
That day, I gave oral testimony before the National Institutes of Health at a regional meeting in San Francisco, which gave communities a voice in establishing research priorities for women’s health over the next 10 years. 
I asked that the Office of Women’s Health Research (NIH/OWHR) work to better understand what women, and their loved ones, need after an abortion in order to support their own emotional well-being. 

The desire for the emotional well-being of women is common ground.  It doesn’t require compromise of human rights or moral values and it doesn’t require the sacrifice of dearly held beliefs.  The research agenda we proposed to the NIH/OWHR reveals this common ground by addressing three indisputable facts:

1.    Millions of American women have already had abortions.
2.    The personal experience of abortion can be emotional.
3.    People want and deserve emotional well-being.

In my testimony, I spoke about my own experience searching for resources after my abortion, a journey that led me to found Exhale, the nation’s first organization dedicated to promoting emotional well-being after an abortion. 

Danielle Thomas, a fellow Pro-Voice Ambassador and an Exhale counselor, spoke about her experiences on Exhale’s national, multilingual post-abortion talkline.  We spoke about the important role of emotional health in overall health and well-being. 

Finally, we provided recommendations for the research the NIH/OWHR should undertake to promote emotional well-being post-abortion, which includes the need to:

  • Assess the psychological and emotional needs of women after an abortion.
  • Evaluate the effects of different post-abortion emotional support models on a woman’s well-being.
  • Examine men’s emotional experience with abortion.
  • Understand the characteristics of healthy coping after an abortion in diverse communities.
  • Explore the connection between the social experience and the emotional experience of abortion. 

Common ground is not just a plan to be unveiled by the White House, known only to President Obama and his advisors.  There is no such thing as a “common ground” political position.  You cannot search for common ground or set it as a goal, like ending smoking or drunk driving.  Common ground is what is real, truthful, and undisputed, and it is always beneath our feet.  Our responsibility as pro-life, pro-choice, or pro-voice advocates is to notice it, acknowledge it, and seek to address it.  

The need for this approach is clear when it comes to the emotional experience of abortion.  For too long, the polarizing impulses of the abortion conflict have held this issue hostage.  The facts – abortions have already happened, they can be emotional, and people want emotional well-being – have been turned into political fodder instead of being addressed seriously, comprehensively, and publicly as important information about a woman’s well-being.  Consider the “regret vs. relief” stand-off about what “most women” feel after an abortion.  The dichotomy serves political ends and helps differentiate opponents.  What it doesn’t do is offer a way forward, or paint a picture of how the world would look and feel if these three indisputable facts were addressed.  

Forcing the issue into either-or territory creates false choices, even in how to identify one’s own position on abortion: “Do I side with those who understand that abortion can be emotional, but who want to limit its availability, or do I side with those who try to make it more available but refuse to acknowledge its emotional impact?”    

This has been a choice forced upon many Americans.  It is one choice none of us should have to make.  As Jon Stewart said in his recent interview with Mike Huckabee on The Daily Show, choosing sides on abortion often feels like a choice between “frenzied and maniacal or callous and indifferent.”

We deserve more, and better.  There is common ground upon which to stand. 

Instead of being forced into a false choice, Americans should feel confident that their legitimate concerns about indisputable facts are being taken seriously, and that the emotional well-being of women who have had abortions is being addressed, pro-actively.  

This is what I want.  This is why we started Exhale: to address the reality of abortion in women’s lives and to take a stand next to each and every woman who has had one.  We call our work pro-voice, because it is the voices and experiences of those who have lived this issue that should drive the discussion.  On The Daily Show, when Mr. Huckabee posed a question about how pregnant women think through their rights and responsibilities, what I wanted most was for the women who have called Exhale to have the chance to answer.  Their voices could directly counter the problem with the abortion debate, which Mr. Huckabee described as generating “more heat than light.” 

Of course, as Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, recently pointed out in a speech to Planned Parenthood, we should not push or prod people to speak out about a personal, stigmatized issue.  This can in fact cause more pain and be detrimental to emotional well-being.  Instead, respect and comfort are the best tools for helping people to build their confidence and resiliency.  This is one more reason why it is important to directly address the facts through research, and create a deep and thorough understanding of women’s emotional experiences with abortion. 

Forward-thinking leaders have already embraced this challenge.  Tracy Weitz is leading a research effort at the Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program at the University of California-San Francisco to better understand women’s emotional experiences with abortion, a project that Exhale was proud to join as a partner.  Ms. Weitz is pro-actively addressing the indisputable facts – women have had abortions, abortion can be emotional, and people want emotional well-being – and ANSIRH’s investigation will help identify how best to respond to them.  I hope more leaders will follow her example.   

Research to promote emotional well-being after an abortion is common ground because there is nothing to compromise, no human right or moral value to sacrifice, no ground to give way.  The only losers are those who fight to keep things the way they are. 

But the winners!  Let’s consider them.  Americans will win because their concerns will be taken seriously, and they will reward forward-thinking leaders with new credibility, another win.  Most important, women who have had abortions will win because there will be research, information and services to support their emotional well-being. 

Undoubtedly, there will be big debates over President Obama’s common ground policy.  I hope that leaders will remember that common ground – the indisputable facts: women have had abortions, abortion can be emotional, and people want emotional well-being – is always beneath our feet.  All we have to do is look down, respond, and stand strong together. 

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  • alison-cole

    I just posted a reader diary about the importance of listening to women in forming policy around all aspects of women’s health care, from birth to abortion to health-care reform. I so appreciate the way you honor women’s voices. I am happy to adopt the “pro-voice” label you have created. Thank you for all you do, Aspen. Thank you for Exhale.

  • invalid-0

    “You cannot search for common ground or set it as a goal, like ending smoking or drunk driving.”

    Thank you for your article. I would only suggest that no one voice (or side/position) can define what the common ground is or should be. On this emotional issue in particular, if we can get to the point where both sides see the value in making the decision to search for the common ground, we will be a lot closer to assuring the emotional well-being that you write about.
    Susan Koscis
    Search for Common Ground
    Washington DC

  • invalid-0

    “Do I side with those who understand that abortion can be emotional, but who want to limit its availability, or do I side with those who try to make it more available but refuse to acknowledge its emotional impact?” Thank you for concisely describing how the either-or paradigm has failed, and for taking us to new ground on abortion. Women’s voices are key!

  • jodi-jacobson

    I really appreciate your piece and your thoughts here.


    What I think is central though I did not find it explicitly stated, is that there are indeed a wide range of reactions that may be felt by women (and men) after an abortion, and in fact any specific woman may have different reactions at different times in her life.


    Someone who has an abortion at a time in their lives when they know without question they are not able to carry a child to term and care for it may have no regrets, some regrets etc. that same person years later, when married and with several children, faced with an unplanned pregnancy and opting for abortion may have a very different reaction.


    There is indeed a range of legitimate, rational reactions from sheer relief and not really thinking much about it afterward to regret or sadness. All are legitimate for all the individual women involved.


    I would not think this should be an issue that would have any disagreement, but for one fact. Perhaps you have, but I have not experienced the pro-choice community as using emotional reactions of individual women as a basis for making policy that would affect the future decisions of other women.

    I have on the other hand experienced those who wish to limit/restrict women’s choices as using their voices to argue for or legitimate restrictions on future women.
    There is the thread for example that "abortion is bad for women." 


    What you are proposing–and what you offer at Exhale–is that like any other medical procedure there be the possibility of counseling to those who need it, or people to talk to or sensitive responses to women’s needs and reactions post-abortion. I spoke to many people and sought advice and received input and counseling and support, for example, when faced with the choice of signing a "do not resuscitate" order for my father at the point where that became the obvious and humane thing to do. I would not have expected my own journey to be used as a national indication of policymaking one  way or the other.


    What I do think we need to consider and guard against is how the real and diverse truths of people who speak about their experiences–whether theirs entailed relief, anxiety lack of certainty, regret, whatever–may be used to "characterize" women’s experiences of abortion one way or the other and then in ways to limit the choices of future women seeking to control their own reproductive and sexual health and lives.

    Thanks for a thoughtful piece.
    Jodi Jacobson

  • invalid-0

    Thanks Aspen for keeping us grounded as in our discussions around abortion and elevating the needs and concerns of women who have been directly impacted. I’m so glad to hear about the Exhale is partnering with UCSF and look forward to hearing more as the work develops.


  • josh-truitt

    Thank you Aspen for so powerfully advocating for a way of thinking about abortion that centers the experiences of those most impacted: women who have had abortions. Too often the lives of these individuals are lost in a debate that has become more about beliefs and ideology than actual human beings. Your call for research comes from a place of compassion, not politics, modeling an approach to the abortion debate that I hope we can continue moving forward.

  • kate2

    I’m fully support the research goals that Aspen related to the NIH. We must assess women’s needs, evaluate our ability to meet those needs, involve and understand men, understand and promote healthy coping and explore social emotional connection.

    AND…I’m not sure about the common ground frame. I believe that the Pro-Voice movement has a place in the public discourse about abortion because it supports and brings to focus real women’s experiences. However, I am not sure what a Pro-Voice movement would look like in a world where abortion is criminalized and driven underground. In this world, women would not only be silenced by the debate about abortion…but also by their own fear of being persecuted.

    Therefore, I would re-write the undeniable facts that Aspen lays out.

    (And as a social scientist I would re-label them as “theories”)

    1. Women have and will always have abortions.
    2. The personal experience of abortion can be emotional.
    3. The more silence, judgement, isolation and fear of persecution that women experience around their decisions…the more likely they are to struggle emotionally with their decisions.
    3. People want and deserve emotional well-being.

  • invalid-0

    Sadly, the increased linkages created between church and state over the past 8 years have in large part contributed to where the “abortion debate” stands in this country. To move past the political to the personal, as you have done Aspen with your great piece, is what is needed. We need to personalize this conversation, as we do with most social issues. This has always been and always will be about women’s health and women’s lives. Thank you for reminding us of that important truth.

  • jodi-jacobson

    You said what i have been trying to say/articulate and much more eloquently than i could.

    thanks, Jodi

  • invalid-0

    To Aspen and everyone who has taken the time to post a comment – deepest thanks! I really appreciate the earnest dialogue that is emerging around abortion and women’s well-being, and credit Exhale and its allies with creating the conditions for such a dialogue to flourish. Keep up the great work!

  • invalid-0

    With High Tech Reproduction, the Female does not have to Birth the Child or have Abortions.

    “… there was no serious question that people’s lives were — and should be — shaped by the church, its teachings and its clergy.”

    J.T.: (yesterday)
    “The Bible clearly tells us that that there is way that feels right to someone which leads to death.”

    Proverbs 14:12. KJV. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

    The ‘feels right’ for a man, is the sex act, that led the Adam and Eve Purebred Clones to Reproduce Defective Children, that Killed.

    And all Humans since, say it feels right to reproduce Humans, and then Kill Each Other, and their Home Planet.

    The way that seems right to a man, Lust, does end in Death. Jesus tried to start the Celibate Male Movement, to control Misbreeding. But it did not take.

    Jesus did get to go up into Space, ‘to Heaven’ Alive, in a High Tech Regenerated Virgin Body.

    Ever since The Adam and Eve Fallen Society, Males and Female joined Celibate/Virgin Communes.

    In Jesus’ time, the Celibate Essenes were active. In the 1900s, the Shakers were Celibate Females and Males.

    J.T. (yesterday) “… so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

    With our High Tech today, we do Reproduce Human fetus’ in the lab, Asexually, without the sex act to the female. High Tech is a Way to Reproduce Virgin Male and Female Clones.

    What is Truth? The High Tech Way to ‘Eternal’ Physical Life After Birth?

    With High Tech Science, Humans can Reproduce Purebred Asexual Human Clones, and have Eternal Physical Life After Birth, ‘on Planets and in Spaceships’, like our High Tech Peace Ancestors, the God/Us in Genesis.

  • invalid-0

    When we start with listening and acceptance…we begin on the path toward truth…and away from the choice between ‘frenzy or indifference’. Thanks to Aspen and Exhale, who long ago opened their ears, hearts and minds to make room for everyone’s story to be heard.

  • invalid-0


    I like the issue you raise: given the natural range of women’s emotional responses to abortion, what do we decide to do (or not do) about it, and how has the pro-choice community fallen short in this respect?

    “…I have not experienced the pro-choice community as using emotional reactions of individual women as a basis for making policy that would affect the future decisions of other women.

    I have on the other hand experienced those who wish to limit/restrict women’s choices as using their voices to argue for or legitimate restrictions on future women. There is the thread for example that “abortion is bad for women.”

    You are saying that the pro-life community is doing harm to women’s post abortion emotional well-being by imposing legal restrictions on their options, and I agree with you. Kate (below) correctly points out that social stigma should be added to Aspen’s key premises about emotional well being.

    The pro-choice community can improve our support of women’s emotional well being, too. We have committed a “sin of omission” by not acknowledging the conflicted feelings some women feel after an abortion — understandable, given the pro-life movement’s strategy of limiting women’s options to “protect women.” However, we lose credibility and we miss opportunities to connect with people when we neglect some of the feelings women have about abortion. I think this “sin of omission” occurs more in public debate than in clinics (because clinicians hear women’s voices every day).

    Pro-choice advocates should bravely accept all the complicated feelings people have about abortion. The connections we form by doing so will give us the traction we need to gain ground, even on the “slippery slope” we fear.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks Aspen and thanks to everyone else who contributed to this thread! I found it very interesting and has raised all kinds of important issues. I particularly like how much in common we all have (speaking of common ground) in that we are all searching for ways to honor the true experiences women are having while at the same time wanting to make sure those experiences further women’s situations and choices instead of diminish them.

    One thing that always helps me when I think about these kind of situations (and this is just my thing; it may not work for others or even be the right approach), is to name who is doing the thing I like and who is doing the thing I dislike. Hearing about Exhale’s work, I like that women get to talk about abortion in their own words and name the things they want and need from society to support them. I also love that people like Aspen can be champions for those voices to be heard. What dislike is when politicians use those voices directly against the interests of the speakers, such as in the case that Kate2 and Jodi suggest where abortion would be outlawed.

    In my mind, those politicians are the problem, not the women who tell their story. The struggle, of course, is how to address the politics without sounding like we are beating up on the women themselves. What strikes me as interesting and potentially groundbreaking about the NIH study and Exhale’s work in general is the potential to have so many stories available to policy makers than no one story can dominate. Imagine rather than just one or two or even a dozen stories from women, there are hundreds or thousands. Then, for every story that some policy-maker wants to use to universalize women’s experience (e.g. regret), there are hundreds more than differ and undermine an argument that abortion will always be a bad experience for women. A chorus of voices instead of a single voice in the wilderness. That’s pro-voice to me.

    Admittedly, I’m a bit of a science and law geek, so data-driven arguments appeal to me, but I have real hope that these kind of pro-voice efforts will not only help individual women but also the struggle to protect the rights of all women by validating their experiences publicly.

    Thanks again to everyone for their comments. I look forward to learning more.

  • jodi-jacobson

    thanks so much for this note.  I appreciate the conversation about this.

    You wrote:

    You are saying that the pro-life community is doing harm to women’s post abortion emotional well-being by imposing legal restrictions on their options, and I agree with you.

    In effect, I guess I was implying this, yes, but did not really mean to focus on that as my central point.  Instead, I was saying that the reality that some women feel regret and other emotions across the range of feelings tends to be used as a justification for proposals to restrict abortion or to characterize abortion as "bad," rather than saying, "Ok, this is an issue where people have a range of feelings….period….and we need to acknolwedge and hear that range of emotions."  Instead it is turned into a truism for all women—"abortion is bad for women too"–and used as an instrument against choice.


    I do appreciate your insights.


    best, Jodi


  • invalid-0

    Aspen, your piece raises a number of key issues that the pro-choice community needs to continue to grapple with:
    1) respecting and acknowledging the range of women’s experiences and emotions after abortion;
    2) not allowing those experiences/emotions to be exploited or used irresponsibly–by those who want to restrict abortion or make it illegal;
    3) the role that stigma plays in silencing or distorting women’s voices–even to themselves.

    I not sure whether I am hopeful or skeptical that with more data about women’s emotion and experience will help with the stigma. After all, we have more than 30 years of experience already and the stigma seems to continue. But it is such a key issue and I hope you will keep writing about that.

    Finally, I love that you are following in the footsteps of the earlier feminist movement–listening to women (and men). Honestly listening — and being listened to–is transformative at both the personal and political levels and you are injecting new energy into that. This has often been forgotten in the midst of policy struggles. Bringing real voices in this debate will continue to be a huge contribution.

  • invalid-0

    Thank you, Aspen, for another poignant piece on finding common ground and shifting the current abortion paradigm. The sooner we adopt the recommendations you lay out here and look at abortion through the lens you suggest, the sooner women and their experiences become the the center of the discussion.

  • paul-bradford

    My belief has long been that it’s not only exploitative but illogical to point to women’s experience of abortion as evidence for whether the procedure is morally justified or ought to be legal.


    Let’s consider a situation that I believe is analogous: There are deep divisions in the debate about whether the war was justified but those divisions are entirely irrelevant to the issues faced by those who have  emotionally profound (oftentimes traumatic) experiences of the war itself.  We need to address the emotional needs of our warriors without wasting a bit of time talking about whether or not the war ought to have been waged.


    And yet, as we address the needs of servicewomen and men we shouldn’t expect that progress in dealing with emotion and trauma will result in our being able to make progress in our understanding of the moral dimensions of war itself.  It’s like the two issues have to be kept entirely separate.  If I’m setting out to help a soldier deal with difficult memories, I shouldn’t get into a discussion with him/her about whether the war was justified; on the other hand, if I want to participate in a debate about the war, I ought to leave the emotional experiences the the war triggered out of the discussion.


    Helping women (and men, and extended families) deal with the emotional issues that abortion brings up is a good thing.  Looking for ways to advance the debate about abortion is also a good thing; but the two things are very different.


    It’s only after you’ve done the work of psychological healing that you’re going to be in a good position to advance your position on the issue. 


    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • invalid-0

    I like the ground under our feet metaphor because it reminds me of the “walk a miles in my shoes” metaphor (as someone else already alluded to in the comments section). While it’s true that women have all sorts of emotional experiences of their abortions, it’s equally (and obviously) true that there are entire life stories that lead up to any woman’s decision to have an abortion. And that these paths are influenced by her race, socio-economic class, immigration status, where she lives, age, and much much more. The same roadblocks (last metaphor, I promise) to emotional care for women, particularly women of color and/or poor women, are the same barriers to good health care that we need. Thanks for reminding us that empathy, and listening to women’s stories, is at the center of finding common anything.

  • aspen-baker

    Thanks for chiming in Paul.  I’m not sure if you’re responding to my post or a particular comment, but I wanted to clarify that Exhale’s Pro-Voice position is decidedly not about using women’s experiences to justify a pre-determined moral or legal outcome.  It is quite the opposite, in fact.  We believe the best way to shed new light on old issues is to talk to those with direct experience and those whose voices have been left out. This is what creates the potential for transformation.  From our experiences on the talkline already, when women talk openly and honestly about thier personal experience it sure doesn’t fit into any box that I’ve seen. 

  • aspen-baker

    I’ve really appreciated reading everyone’s thoughtful posts and considerations for how listening to the truth of people’s experiences and responding to their needs is important for health and well-being across a range of issues from birthing, to stigma, to women of color, and more. I also appreciate the lively discussion about the responsibility of the pro-choice movement in both acknowledging a range of experiences and role-modeling the most productive way to address them. Thank You!

  • crowepps

    I understand where you’re coming from but isn’t the focus kind of narrow? Why aren’t you also looking into what women and families need for emotional well-being after a child is born and taken home? After a child is adopted? After they make the decision to remain childfree?

    Obviously it wasn’t a scientifically balanced poll but when Ann Landers asked in the ’70s for advice from parents as to whether if they had the decision to make again they would still have children SEVENTY PERCENT said no they would not.

    Certainly it’s a great idea to try to promote emotional well-being among those who have had an abortion, but in order to actually make a difference for women, it would be really helpful to find out what they need for emotional well-being when they DON’T have an abortion.

  • heather-corinna

    I suspect Aspen’s answer to why this is the area she focuses on
    instead of EVERY area of women’s emotional well-being would probably be
    similar to my answer when people ask me why I focus most of my work in
    the areas, or for the specific populations, where I do.  Overall? 
    There really are only so many hours in the day and only so many people
    any one organization can serve, especially when we’re talking about one-on-one conversations. :)


    I don’t think this is
    a narrow focus at all, for the record.  It’s no small number of women
    who don’t have any compassionate support (or who have substandard
    support) before, during or after abortion and who want it, no matter
    how they are feeling. I feel very strongly that the work Aspen does makes a difference for the women Exhale serves.


    As well, where any of us chooses to do our activism, and around one issue, also often has to do with what issues or arenas we are most passionate about, have particular skills with or a personal connection to.

  • crowepps

    Well, I’d say that it’s no small number of PEOPLE who don’t have compassionate support and who want it.


    I do understand that people who set up helping organizations focus on their own areas of interest, but this particular one seems to imply that the reproductive area contains one special case – abortion – and that those particular women need extra special emotional care.  Women’s emotional reactions are all across the board in all the possible reproductive subgroups – women who are infertile – women who have made the choice to be childless – women who want to adopt – women willing to place in adoption – women who have miscarriages – women who take their babies home.


    I certainly can understand why someone would focus on an area that serves their own emotional needs as the provider, but it seems to me that since women could belong to many of these categories at one time or another in their lives,  even could belong to more than one at the same time, trying to segregate them out and treat one group as ‘specially needy’ has an unlying assumption that having an abortion is in a special category of extra upsetting and needs extra compassion. 

  • heather-corinna

    I don’t think this is about a need for "extra-special" care.  It’s simply about someone/an org looking to serve on, of many, areas of care.


    It might help to know that when it comes to post-abortion counseling and support, it’s an area that has mostly been served by those who are antichoice, which obviously puts big limits on the way a woman is going to be supported, if at all, depending on how she is feeling about it.  I’d also say that some of the other areas you have brought updo have more resoruces available,and some are also easer to find support for just in one’s own family or social circle.


    But again, one person or organization cannot serve everyone.  It might help to look at this, which I really like:

  • crowepps

    Thanks, Heather, very much appreciate the link.  I also can see where there is definitely a need when the help that is already available may be tainted by ideology.  Thanks for explaining.

  • heather-corinna

    My pleasure! :)

  • invalid-0

    The common ground Aspen speaks of here is crucial to supporting women who have had abortions and enabling them to attain emotional well-being. This common ground should be (but sadly, has not been) easy for both sides on the abortion issue to identify and stand together on.

    But I have to agree with Paul’s statement that ‘Helping women (and men, and extended families) deal with the emotional issues that abortion brings up is a good thing. Looking for ways to advance the debate about abortion is also a good thing; but the two things are very different.’ In my mind, the abortion debate is and has always been centered on questions about whether or not – and under what circumstances – women should be able to decide to have an abortion, and if so, at what financial, emotional, and physical cost. Finding common ground on post-abortion well-being, while important, doesn’t address these questions, and so I am not clear how it helps us challenge the current climate around abortion or move the dialogue around abortion forward.

    I don’t mean to say that this is or should be the goal of Aspen’s work – she has always been very clear that Exhale and the Pro-Voice approach do not take a side nor seek common ground on policy or politics around abortion. But ultimately, I am left feeling that, while this is an important way to build support and understanding for women who have already had abortions, it doesn’t help us figure out a new way of addressing the debate around abortion itself, which is critical to the emotional well-being of women who are currently considering and seeking abortions – and by extension, would promote well-being for those same women after their abortions. That is the place where many of us are still struggling to break out of the rut of the last 35 years of debate.

  • invalid-0

    By shear coincidence, I ran across a mention of this book after reading this article:

    Mourning the Unborn: A Buddhist Ritual Comes to America

    According to the description, abortion is common in Japan, and the Buddhists there have a ritual for mourning and honoring the passing of the unborn. I haven’t read the book yet, but the very notion strikes me as a step toward care and healing. Also, how beautiful a thing that can take place when the reality of abortion is acknowledged and not vilified.

  • aspen-baker

    Thanks for your comment Parker.  It is very telling to read that a pro-choice movement leader such as yourself – who advocates for the rights of women to have legal abortions – does not see an important, and potentially transformative role for these very same women in the public debate about abortion.  I do appreciate your candor. 


    And yet, how is it possible that all of these thousands of women, and their loved ones, who were able to access legal abortion as a result of your advocacy, are now no longer relevant?


    Research on the issue of post-abortion wellbeing is important because it allows us to build support and understanding for women who have *lived* this issue (not just debated it) and opens the door to better understand how we can best respond to their needs. You may well be right, that the right to legal abortion is important in a woman’s overall health and wellbeing, and yet, this is often just one aspect of a woman’s whole story. Research can help us find out the rest. There remains so much more to know and better understand. 


    It is impossible for me to think that so much new information about women’s lives and experiences around abortion would not have an impact on the same-ol debate that you say you want so hard to break out of.  



  • invalid-0

    Aspen, I don’t know if you really misinterpreted my comment so profoundly, or if you just can’t hear me without painting me with your ‘typical pro-choice leader’ brush.

    I did not say, and do not in any way believe, that women who have had abortions and their voices and experiences are irrelevant or unimportant, and I am surprised and offended by your accusation. I really don’t understand how that is what you took from my question.

    In fact, my point has always been that women who are or have been pregnant and their voices and experiences should be at the center of the discussion, debate AND policy on abortion – including their voices and experiences before, during and after the abortion. My confusion is around how an approach that focuses ONLY on post-abortion support and dialogue will lead to the transformation of a debate that is so focused on the before and during, in the interpersonal realm as well as the political.

    You have said that ‘living a pro-voice solution is the only option for a lasting peace to the abortion war.’ I am just trying to understand how we get from point A to point B.

    • aspen-baker

      Thanks Parker.  That helps clarify. 


      When you wrote:


      "while this is an important way to build support and understanding for
      women who have already had abortions, it doesn’t help us figure out a
      new way of addressing the debate around abortion itself"


      It sounded to me like you were saying that post-abortion support was a nice to have but not relevant to the debate, which you described as:


      "In my mind, the abortion debate is and has always been centered on
      questions about whether or not – and under what circumstances – women
      should be able to decide to have an abortion, and if so, at what
      financial, emotional, and physical cost"


      Your clarification about "My confusion is around how an approach that focuses ONLY on
      post-abortion support and dialogue will lead to the transformation of a
      debate that is so focused on the before and during, in the
      interpersonal realm as well as the political" really helps me see more clearly where you are coming from.  


      I think its up to all of us.  If the debate is about before and during, then let’s see how an approach that focuses on after changes the name of game.  


      No brushstroking intended.   

  • invalid-0

    I think Heather’s answers to this were great and I completely agree with everything she said. I also thought you’d be interested to know about an organization called Backline, which operates from the philosophy that women’s reproductive experiences and decisions are often interconnected, and so they offer support for women around the range of pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption issues – pre and post abortion, pre and post placement for adoption, and pre and post-partum. To learn more, visit

  • invalid-0

    Backline’s philosophy rocks!

  • snowflake

    So it would be acceptable to abort a fetus if the "funeral" you held afterwards was repectful?  I don’t think either side of this debate would go for that.