How Stories of Personal Experience Help Drive Change

Originally published by the TED Ideas Blog:

Great social movements often have one thing in common: they are created by people with the courage to talk openly about their lives and experiences. Women have sparked movements to end street harassment, generating new public dialogue about safety and respect. Autistic people have formed communities to embrace their identity and push for better understanding of neurodiversity. Formerly incarcerated men talk about their past crimes with the hope of shifting systems away from punishment and towards rehabilitation.

This isn’t what happened with abortion. The movement to liberalize abortion laws in the United States was led by people who cared about helping women get safe abortions, but those who had actually had abortions were rarely at the forefront. In the meantime, polarizing political debates, violence, social stigma and the desire for privacy have pushed women who have abortions even further to the margins.

It’s time to change course and insist that all sides do more listening to the women who have had abortions — and their loved ones. Their experiences must take center stage in these public conversations — and that’s going to require us all to learn how to listen without judgment.

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