By Aspen Baker, Exhale (part of MAG-Net's Social Justice Delegtion to the NCMR 2011)
After an abortion, women who want to connect personally with others who share their experience face incredible social and political challenges, such as stigma, judgment and manipulation. They risk losing their job or straining relationships with friends and family.
Yet, the desire to share stories and feel connected to others who understand is so strong that a woman will take great risks with the hope that her voice will be heard and that she will no longer feel alone.
At the recent National Conference on Media Reform, Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice spoke in a workshop on how to use mobile phones for social change. She shared with us that technology is so much more than a tool for organizing or politics. When a woman living as an inmate in a federal prison pays $7.00 every time she calls home to hear her daughter’s voice; or an African immigrant in New York pays $5 for a phone card he’s promised will give him twenty minutes with his family back home, only to have his time cut short after 5 minutes, technology becomes a matter of human dignity. Malkia reminded all of us attending the workshop that we love technology because “we love to connect.” We call, text, tweet, and email not because we love our gadgets, but because our gadgets help us meet a deep, human need for personal connection.
Exhale, an organization created by and for women who have had abortions, uses technology to facilitate connection and communication between women who have had abortions; and to shape public conversations about our personal experiences with abortion. Our pro-voice programs offer women who have had abortions the opportunity to speak for themselves – to tell their own stories, in their own words and in the forums of their choice – and feel heard with dignity and respect.
Women and our loved ones call our national, multilingual talkline to express ourselves in private with a counselor; we discuss our experiences after an abortion with other women in our private online community; and we participate in mainstream and social media forums that open supportive, respectful conversations which invite personal story sharing in public spaces. We use technology every day and it is fundamental to our current and future strategies to create abortion peace.
In the 21st Century, communication technology is a matter of human dignity. We need technology to be full participants in family, community, faith and political life; and without it, we lose our ability to feel fully heard. There are barriers to this participation, including the ability to pay for technology like computers and cell phones, and most importantly, the ability to access a free, neutral internet to make the connections we need to share our stories.
As women who have had abortions we need to ensure that all of our stories – those of women who regret our abortions as well as women who feel resolved, women who have changed their lives after an abortion and those who used it to stay on the same track, and women who can connect freely online and those who cannot – are heard and understood.
Technology matters to women who have had abortions.
We know that feeling heard is critical to our health and wellbeing and that communication technology is fundamental to being heard in the 21st Century. Without it, others can control our narratives, spread myths, stereotypes and untruths about who we are, including our values, families and communities. But, with access to it, we can be the ones to share our own stories and lead a public conversation that reflects our lived experiences with abortion.
Together, with technology, we can promote listening and storytelling to create abortion peace.
Aspen Baker is the leading voice in the nation on the personal experiences of women with abortion. She is the Executive Director of Exhale, an award winning pro-voice organization that works nationally to create culture change around abortion. An innovative national nonprofit, Exhale utilizes new technologies to promote wellbeing and foster community amongst women after abortion; help women and advocates navigate the changing landscape of private and public spaces; and to develop listening and storytelling practices that create abortion peace.