Pro-Choice Or Pro-Voice (Or Both)?

Most of the episode this week is dedicated to a conversation between Aspen Baker and Amanda Marcotte about pro-voice and pro-choice ideas.


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Souter retires

Conservatives trot out talking points



On this week’s Reality Cast, we’ll be doing something a little different.  Instead of the usual longer segments, I’m having Aspen Baker of Exhale on to talk about her views on the abortion issue, where they merge and where they diverge from the traditional pro-choice movement’s views. 

In recent news,  of course, pro-choicers need to start gearing up for a fight.  (

•    souter *

Souter is a steady pro-choice vote, so odds are that he’ll just be replaced with another pro-choice judge by Obama.  That said, conservatives can be counted on to act outraged and throw hissy fits, as if it’s left wing radical thought to believe women deserve basic human rights.  So get out of bed early, get your coffee, and start preparing for a fight.


inteview with aspen baker


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, what we need are sociopaths edition.  On “This Week”, Senator Orrin Hatch protested President Obama’s suggestion that a judge should have empathy and understanding for the people that he’s dealing with.  (

•    empathy *

And “activist judge” is code for “person who thinks women are people”.  Is this where we’re at now?  Where conservatives are against even basic empathy, because they know that if you can put yourself in a woman’s shoes, it’s that much harder to force her to give birth against her will?

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • invalid-0

    I think if we are to move the national dialogue into a pro-voice movement it would be helpful if Aspen didn’t set-up and promulgate false dichotomies. It’s not Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life. That’s truly old-school. The traditional choice community is more pro life than all those organizations who would deny a woman the right to make her own personal decision combined.

    It is neither pro-choice nor pro-life. It is all about supporting a woman to make whatever decision is right for her. It is backing the groundbreaking work of Reproductive Health Technologies Project re the ambivalence about abortion that Americans overwhelmingly display. It is using the language of the RHTP work that supports decision-making and affirms the right of people to not agree.

    Speaking for only one reproductive rights and justice organization and a provider of abortion services, we definitely support a woman’s right to voice her feelings post-abortion, no matter what they might be. And we provide a safe and warm and accepting environment in which to do so.
    There are hundreds of abortion providers doing likewise. Aspen just needs to look around more.

  • aspen-baker

    Hi Roger,


    I am so glad you took the time to listen to the podcast.  I absolutely agree with you that the reality of what people think, feel, act and experience around abortion is much more nuanced and insightful than the political labels of pro-choice and pro-life, and yet, this continues to be the dominant framework for conversation that exists in this country.  I believe pro-voice can be a part of changing that and that listening to the voices of women in the public sphere is critical to this transformation.  I am also glad you brought up the work that many providers and clinics do to listen to women around their experiences. I know this to be true.  Pro-voice is not a dismissal of this work – in fact, it is the exact opposite.   Pro-voice seeks to make this listening work the dominant frame for the abortion debate and asks all sides to take a public stand for women’s experiences and to join us in creating more opportunities for these voices to be heard, supported and respected in public spaces. 


    Roger, I would love to hear your ideas for how to create supportive spaces for women to share their experiences beyond the clinic doors.  



  • invalid-0

    I am a counselor in an abortion clinic. Many times a woman or man will call us *before* an abortion wanting to talk longer on the phone than we are able. Although we offer the opportunity for women and men to come in before the abortion appointment if they want, many cannot make two trips. Therefore we are likely to refer to either a private phone counselor whose work we know well or else Backline. We have found that Aspen’s organization, while it does good work, is too limited for us to refer our patients to. Backline will talk not only before an abortion but we can rest assured that the counselors there are pro-choice. A major concern when making a referral is that I know for certain that the counselor to whom I am referring will not be limited in what she can or will listen to. That means that all concerns can be explored whether before or after an abortion. In addition, Backline’s excellent phone counselors can and do discuss adoption and parenting. Backline better suits the needs of our patients and support persons.

  • aspen-baker

    Hi Anonymous,


    I am so glad you are thinking about what is best for your patients and for finding a resource that meets their needs.  You are right, the Exhale talkline has a very specific mission and that is to support women and men emotionally after an abortion.  At the time of our founding, there was no other organization that provided this service in a nonjudgmental environment and we set out to meet this need – and I am very proud to say we have and continue to grow the ways we meet that ongoing need.  Today, as a result of Exhale, and with our allies like Backline, there are more resources available for women and men post-abortion to get support, tell their story, and participate in changing the public conversation than ever before. We have worked together to create more, not less.


    As you well know from your work, women can have a range of needs around their abortion experience, from support for survivors of violence to help in accessing food and shelter.  Backline is one of the many trusted referrals that Exhale uses as part of our mission to extend the possible network of support for women and their families. 


    Not every resource is right for every person, in every situation, and it is up to each one of us that provides community services to offer women and their families with the information, resources and support they need to be healthy and well during every stage of life. We need to work together to expand the resources available, not limit them.  



  • invalid-0

    Not to disparage this very important and respectful dialogue, but it seems that pro voice is a great idea but on the ground it doesn’t really work. Many providers (but not always all prochoice groups) have usually been attentive to women’s experiences including difficult feelings after an abortion. But, the anti-abortion side has NEVER accepted any conclusion other than that abortion is bad and should be illegal. So, asking “all sides to take a public stand for women’s experiences” is a nice thought but I don’t see “the other side” shifting a bit. It wouldn’t be the first time we have taken the initiative but it matters in this case because the anti abortion folks are still working hard to stigmatize women and are very effective. So, what are we sacrificing for “pro voice” instead of “pro choice”? The confidence that women will be talking to a service that stands for their legal and moral right to have an abortion when they feel they cannot have a child.

  • invalid-0

    For a long time I’ve been looking for a way to understand abortion that transcends the ill-fitting choice/life dichotomy. It is incredibly refreshing to discover pro voice – it’s complementary to my political pro choice views, without injecting agendas or ideas on people when they just need the open space to reflect about their abortion.

    After my own abortion, I would have loved to call a place that did not ask me to define myself in absolute terms. Of course I want abortion to be safe and legal. I also want the freedom to talk about it frankly and honestly without someone telling me I’m sacrificing pro choice values. I’m glad that we’re moving toward this, and I’m grateful to Ms. Baker for staking that ground.