An Invitation: Just Say Yes To Abortion Peace

We are a nation deeply divided over abortion. The conflict is so bad most people refer to it as our nation’s “Abortion Wars.” Carole Joffe, author of “Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients and the Rest of Us” writes that our abortion wars have “proved costly for American society as a whole, causing a degradation of our political culture.”  Yet, she lauds “women who seek abortions and the men and who women provide them [as] resourceful and committed combatants” while Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, refers to herself and her counterparts as the “postmenopausal militia.” 

As a woman who was born on the third anniversary of Roe v Wade and as a woman who has had an abortion, I am not interested in perpetuating war or conflict. I don’t want to be a combatant or a member of a militia.  Not only do I see, like Carole, the negative impact of the abortion wars on our political climate, I also hear its impact everyday on women who have had abortions.  The Abortion Wars and the tornado of stigmas, violence and politics they whip up (whether in a Newsweek article or a health-care vote) keep the voices of women who have had abortions – their experiences, their stories, their needs – hidden and neglected.  It’s time to leave the war-rhetoric and the war-recruitment behind.  It’s time to create Abortion Peace.

Unlike Nancy Keenan, the numbers of young women who see abortion in complex moral, ethical and emotional terms give me hope and excitement for the future.  These young women have personally experienced abortion, or know someone who has, and the context of legal abortion has given them a freedom to ask new questions and explore new ideas on its role in their lives and the lives of their families, in ways that were not previously possible.  They have all the makings for what is needed to transform war and build peace.

I invite each and everyone one of these young women to join Exhale and our pro-voice movement.  Together, we can ask more questions, create new innovative solutions and address the issues long neglected by the pursuit of war.  We can wage-peace.  We can investigate the social and emotional aspects of abortion, pursue strategies to promote the emotional health of every woman who has had an abortion, create forums where every woman feels seen and heard for her unique abortion experience, and we can transform our culture from one of judgment and shame to one of support and respect.

The future is in our hands and that, young women, fills me with hope.

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  • carole-joffe
    Thank-you for such a thoughtful piece, Aspen. I couldn’t agree with you
    more that we—–the “we” here referring to all of American society—-should
    be waging peace, not war, with respect to the abortion issue. And bravo to
    Exhale and abortion clinics themselves for all the hard work being done to
    create a peaceful space for abortion recipients away from the bitter
    conflicts.  At the same time,  given the endless physical, legislative,
    judicial and cultural attacks on abortion, I think it would be naïve to
    deny the very sad fact that there are*abortion wars* happening in the
    United States.  I think those of us who write about abortion have the
    responsibility not only to document these attacks on abortion, but also to
    make clear that abortion providers and patients are not mere victims.
    Providers, patients and the advocacy community do push back (fight back?)
    in numerous ways.  The fact that abortion provision occurs at all in some of
    the most challenging parts of the country is a testimony to this. I am
    thinking of a clinic in N. Carolina , terrorized for years by known
    extremists, where  recently “wanted posters” with doctors’ pictures,  names
    and addresses were left outside the clinic, but where abortion provision
    still goes on,  or Lee Carhart, valiantly continuing to provide abortion in
    the state of Nebraska, even as the state does everything it can think of to
    limit his practice, and Operation Rescue, after the death of  George Tiller
    (Carhart’s friend and colleague), showed up at Carhart’s clinicin Nebraska.
    Interestingly, when I interviewed Dr. Carhart a few months ago about his
    determination to keep providing abortion, he made reference to his military
    service, and referred to abortion provision as his “mission.” 
         Speaking personally as a observer of the abortion conflict in this country, I thinkto *not* discuss the resourcefulness and bravery of the abortion rights “combatants” in the abortion wars would run the risk of suggesting to thegeneral public that we have lost this war—which is not the case.  None of the above means that I, like you, don’t long for the day when this issue  of
    abortion is no longer viewed as  a “war” but rather as a necessary reproductive health service for women, which some women will want to process in safe spaces such as Exhale.  Carole
  • womantrust

    Thanks Aspen,

    For such thoughtful writing and raising awareness for Exhale and the pro-voice movement, for when women find their voices and become empowered, there’s really no stopping us- and what we yearn for- peace… in our lives, our families, and our world which includes all medical care (namely abortion care). 

    As a long time provider, we witness the toll taken on women obtaining safe abortion care from the harassment and abuse heaped on them while entering and leaving safe and legal clinics.  The same treatment is inflicted on physicians and staff who quickly develop thick skins and ignore the hate filled rhetoric from those who say they’re ‘pro-life’ rain down on others who they know nothing about.

    As a long time feminist, I see this abusive treatment as a statement against women having self- determination as we know the ‘pro-life’ movement also opposes sex education, contraception, other than token assistance to women and children, abortion for any reason- even to save the woman’s life- and fears women being empowered .  Some even include opposition to women voting and promote the belief that all that’s wrong in today’s world is due to women having any control over their own lives- much less their own bodies.  However, when one of them or their loved one needs safe and legal abortion care- how fast minds and hearts change! And how entitled they feel to special treatment so their friends who are demonstrating outside don’t see them enter or leave a clinic.

    Many of these activists don’t think for themselves but follow priests, preachers, etc. who incite demonstrators to act out, violate the law leading to prosecution and punishment- while those vocal ‘leaders’ stand back and watch others pay for their actions.

    For some years after Roe v Wade, there was no ‘war’ around the provision of abortion care.  Once religion and politicians waded in and saw it as a way to recruit members/ supporters, win votes and fundraise- all in big numbers- they use this ‘war’ for their own gain.  And with no concern what happens to women– and children.

    As we approach Mother’s Day, we must remember- historically,at this time violence around abortion provision has increased.  I truly hope that isn’t the case this year, instead I’d like to see people of peace turn out to their local clinics and stand tall and strong for peace.  Those who seek care and those who provide it would really appreciate having the environment outside their facilities be as calm, loving and peaceful as inside.

    Thanks again Aspen, and thanks Carole for your very important account in “Dispatches”.  Please keep writing- women need you!

  • aspen-baker

    Thank you Carole and Womantrust for your thoughtful perspectives and for sharing your experiences. 


    I agree with you Carole that we need to look at, investigate and report on how the abortion conflict affects us all – from women who seek or have abortions, to providers, to families and communities, and our greater political culture.  It’s also true that there are many roads to peace and different ideas for what peace means.  So certainly, some will say that “winning” can bring peace, because the victor can then force their ideas on everyone. Though, typically and historically, this leads to resistance of some kind and more conflict. I argue that even if the pro-choice side “wins,” the conflict over abortion will remain. Personally, I don’t believe that winning is possible nor is it the best strategy for getting to where I want to get – a supportive and respectful social climate around each person’s unique experience with abortion.


    Here are my questions:


    How do we want to be “in conflict” with each other, in this country, over a long period of time?  What kind of behaviors, language and ideas do we want to be known for? How can we practice peaceful ways in the context of conflict?  And, what are the alternatives ways for talking about ourselves and others in this conflict that help pave the way towards peace?  Does self-identity as a “combatant” or “militia member” really take us to our goal or does it perpetuate the status quo?  


    I think that different people will respond to these questions in different ways.  It’s important though, that there is growing discussion for what abortion peace looks like and sounds like, and how we can change our own behaviors and established norms in order to get us closer to our goals.  

  • cmarie

    hi I am just trying to clarify what exactly pro voice means.  I have two guesses

    1. I am pro choice or have had an abortion and am anxious to talk about it openly so ultimately any stigma is removed

    (or does is mean…)

    2. I have strong feelings about availability of abortion (for or against) and am anxious to discuss the subject peacefully with the people who disagree with me.                   Is it one of these?  thank you

  • faultroy

    Wonderful sentiments, but it’s really only empty rhetoric.  Your focus on “the abortion wars,” fails to see that the issue is far greater in scope. The issue is really a one of fundamental values. While I am pro abortion, I am only too painfully aware that traditional moral values conflict directly with the incredibly loose and vulgar urbane feminist values that are foisted on the country on a daily basis.  As you know, very few physicians are pro abortion on the grounds that it violates their sacred oath to save life not to take it.  This is consistent with many pro life advocates. I don’t know anyone (save the posters on RHrealitycheck) that believes abortion is a good thing.  Many of us look upon it as a necessary evil. Pro abortion feminists are more guilty than anyone of politicizing abortion and tying it into the political landscape thru the Democratic Party.  ALL of the rhetoric by these advocates is oriented towards women.  The argument is that only women have any right to voice an opinon.  Yet men make up 50% of the abortion equation.  Feminists opine that if a man “plays, he pays,” meaning that he is financially responsible for a child.  Yet the same criterion is not given for women–“they play, but don’t pay:”  the government pays and men fathering the children pay but the woman gets the support for free and never has to pay it back. With abortion, men play, but they don’t pay. Furthermore, because of the immorality of prochoice feminists, there is never a discussion about a man’s moral responsibilty to his country, his family or his unborn child.  This has never been the case throughout history. Mankind has always required men to stand firm and take responsibilty for their actions.  Thru no-fault divorce and abortion on demand, men have been completely left out of the equation and defacto out of personal and moral responsibility.  This is not by accident.  This was a conscious orchestrated decision by feminists to obtain complete and sole control of child rearing and child oriented programs. If you are serious about ending the abortion wars, you first have to eliminate the feminist double standard and allow men to have equal voice–and equal responsibilty for both decisions and consequences.  To date pro abortionists and feminists have decided against this common sense approach, and as evidenced, the wars continue unabated.  And, if most prognosticators are correct and we see a dramatic influx of conservative party members in Congress, the wars will actually heat up.  The USA as a whole is pretty fed up with the San Francisco “anything goes,” concept of governance.  While I fully support pro abortion, I am truly apalled at the unbridled contempt so many women have for fetuses.  I’m also agast at the hypocrisy, lies, manipulation and dishonesty of the Pro abortion movement as championed by the National Organization of Women (NOW).  My fear is that continuing down this path will only continue to inflame both the rhetoric and reaction on both sides.  And, as usual, both children and Women will be the ultimate losers in this battle.  I think we must completely rethink our positions on these issues.  We have to acknowledge the fundamental right of children to be borne.  We also must recognize that we cannot prevent a woman from making a decision that affects both her body and her life.  But at the same time, we must also recognize that it is not her decision alone, and we must do everything possible to proactively reduce the number of abortions–and we do this by working together.  If we could all agree on these principles alone, it would eliminate 70 per cent of the vitriol and as a consequence good, morally responsible men like Dr. Tiller would not have to needlessly die.  Dr. Tiller was not only killed by a right wing fundamentalist fanatic, Dr. Tiller was also killed by two obstinate groups that refuse to give way to common sense and work for the common good of Society.  Pro abortion groups are just as guilty in his death as those that actively sought to take this man’s life.  By working with prolife groups to minimize abortions, it would act as a pressure relief valve to not push these extremists to take matters into their own hands. As we have learned in the Palistinean/Israeli Wars, once a person decides to sacrifice himself as a martyr, there is really nothing society can do.  The answer is to negotiate and work together and not allow these extremists to go over the edge.  It is not enough to just talk the talk, but rather we must start to walk the talk.

  • ahunt

    Complete and utter horseshit.

  • julie-watkins

    on article

    faultroy wrote: (excerpt)

    … And as far as women not wanting to go to the police: then it technically is not rape.  For rape to occur, there must be a factual finding in a court of law–again it’s criminal due process.  It is totally unfair to call it rape unless a trial is held and the individual is found guilty or innocent. …

  • crowepps

    Yet the same criterion is not given for women–“they play, but don’t pay:”  the government pays and men fathering the children pay but the woman gets the support for free and never has to pay it back.

    Men father children they don’t plan to support and then resent having to pay back the support given to the child by society in general because they see it as ‘unfair’ that the ONLY things the woman is contributing are pregnancy, gestation, the dangers of delivery, and actually doing the 24/7 work of child care, and thus getting the support “for free”.  Of course, the support is actually for THE CHILD, his child, but none of the mother’s contribution of time or personal labor counts, because after all, it was HER idea not to get an abortion.


    The man, meanwhile, is off somewhere getting someone else pregnant with no plans to support THAT child either.

    Thru no-fault divorce and abortion on demand, men have been completely left out of the equation and defacto out of personal and moral responsibility.

    If men aren’t willing to or can’t behave in a way that allows women to tolerate living with them, it doesn’t seem fair to me to coerce the women into staying by using ‘if you leave I’ll let my own kids starve to punish you’.


    Abortion on demand?  Wait a minute, weren’t you just complaining about how unfair child support is?  Which is that you resent, offspring being aborted or having to pay for offspring which are not aborted?  You only get to choose one.


    The ‘moral responsibility’ of the man would seem to me to be not creating pregnancies in the first place if he’s not planning to support the resultant child.

    This was a conscious orchestrated decision by feminists to obtain complete and sole control of child rearing and child oriented programs.

    Really?  So before no-fault divorce and abortion men provided half of the child care and devoted as much time as women to the children?  Golly, I don’t remember that.  What I remember instead is Mom being immured in the suburbs and Dad going off to work early and coming home late and spending some time with the kids over the weekend, if there wasn’t a game on.

    Pro abortion groups are just as guilty in his death as those that actively sought to take this man’s life. 

    Considering that Dr. Tiller specialized in precisely the medically necessary abortions that would need to continue even if 97% of other abortions ended, this is just a blatantly STUPID claim.

    The answer is to negotiate and work together and not allow these extremists to go over the edge.

    It is not possible to “work together” with those who use the tactics of terrorism.  Extremists interpret offers to “work together” as an indication that their terrorism tactics are successful and INCREASE them.  Instead of attempting to work with extremists we instead need to imprison them.

  • prochoiceferret

    faultroy wrote: (excerpt)

    Wow. So faultroy’s “fundamental values” include giving succor to rapists by denying that rape victims were raped. He must be very popular with the rapist demographic. Quite possibly some of his friends are (not-convicted) rapists, and he wants to be an ally to them.


    (I wonder if he feels that murder isn’t “murder” until there is a factual finding in a court of law—that’s a whole ‘nuther group of friends who could use his support!)


    It’s surprising that someone so bereft of morals, empathy, and respect for women would come to a reproductive-health advocacy Web site, however. Shouldn’t he be browing hard-core porn sites, or something?

  • julie-watkins

    … scanned, saw “Tiller”, read the words around, decided a warning was in order, need to get back to what I was doing before the say-what? moment …

    (it was an easy google to find that quote)

  • princess-rot

    “I am truly apalled at the unbridled contempt so many women have for fetuses.”


    Hah! Fuck you all, fucking fetuses! Gettin’ all up in vajayjays and shit. Chuck Norris does my abortions, it’s the way he roundhouse kicks that shit outta there. Imma recommend him to all my friends. We can have fetus-kicking parties while sipping wine and munching on vegan pot-brownies served to us by naked eunuchs.


  • crowepps

    Since, after all, the mere fact that you came home and found your door kicked in, the big screen TV, jar ‘o money and microwave gone, doesn’t mean you’ve actually been robbed unless there’s been a trial and somebody’s been found guilty.


    Just a thought – by this standard there aren’t any crimes at all. Since crimes don’t exist until someone’s been convicted, it’s totally unreasonable of the police to investigate and arrest anybody, right?