Pro-Voice Fellows speaking to a classroom during Exhale's 5-state Sharing Our Stories 2013 tour.

Pro-Voice Fellows speaking to a classroom during Exhale's 5-state Sharing Our Stories 2013 tour.


Top 5 questions about pro-voice

1) what is pro-voice?

2) What side of the abortion debate is pro-voice on? 

3) How did pro-voice start?

4) How can I be pro-voice?

5) How can I share my story?

 

1) What is pro-voice? 
 
We hear a lot about abortion politics. But how often do we get to hear from people who have experienced abortion in their own words? 
 
Though 1 in 3 women in America will have one in her lifetime, abortion is still taboo in conversation, polarized in politics, and all too distanced from the real, lived experiences of America’s women and families. Pro-voice is a way to change those black and white conversations, an approach which is rooted in respectful listening and ethical storysharing.
 
Pro-voice focuses on the all-to-often ignored or exploited personal experiences with abortion. Thousands of stories told through Exhale’s talkline reveal that sharing personal experiences can be a radical act. Stories are capable of connecting people to one another across different beliefs about politics, religion, socioeconomics, ethnicity, gender, age, or ability. 
 
Pro-voice has guiding principles and a set of practical tools that can be learned and shared. The pro-voice approach emphasizes active listening, validation, and nonjudgmental support. 
 
Pro-voice has champions. These are people who are able to advocate for their own wellbeing and hold onto mutual respect for others during challenging moments. Centered in nonviolence and self-care, pro-voice is a movement that shifts the way we talk about abortion and is applicable to any stigmatized human experience. 

“I came to Exhale to step away from the academic and political framework of looking at abortion and ground myself in the experiences of real people. Since joining the Exhale community, I have learned a great deal about myself, the power of listening and story sharing, as well as the importance of building communities of care.”
— Sara, Exhale talkline counselor

2) What side of the abortion debate is pro-voice on?
 
We don’t choose sides. Pro-voice is an alternative to divisive political rhetoric, and its home is in the grey area between pro-life and pro-choice. 
 
Within a pro-voice framework, it is possible for you to identify as pro-choice and feel grief after obtaining an abortion. It’s also possible for you to identify as pro-life and feel like having an abortion was the best decision you could have made at the time. Your political views can exist alongside how you are feeling about your abortion or someone else’s. This is because pro-voice allows for endless combinations of values and emotions related to an abortion experience.  
 
We find that speaking from personal experience allows people to have nuanced conversations about abortion, and invites a diversity of wisdom and values to be expressed. When we let go of slogans and listen to each other, we create a space for others to tell us something new. We believe that staying open to new information can lead to greater understanding and insight about the range of feelings that can come up after an abortion.
 
Pro-voice humanizes political conversations, transforms oppression, and creates peace. 

“It’s radical to put personal experience as an essential ingredient of how political decisions are made.”
— Aspen Baker, founder & Executive Director, Exhale

3) How did pro-voice start?
 
After their own experiences with abortion, Aspen Baker and fellow co-founders decided to create Exhale, the first confidential, free, nation-wide after-abortion talkline. They sought a supportive place where they could share what they were feeling, discuss self-care and healing, and what options for moving forward could look like. Together, they realized they needed a place to talk about abortion without being judged or stigmatized. Beginning in the early 2000s, Exhale made real-life, everyday conversations possible. 
 
In the midst of a fierce political debate and ongoing legal battles surrounding abortion, the term “pro-voice” was coined in 2005 to express Exhale’s commitment to listening to personal abortion experiences.
 
Because of the Exhale founders’ vision for peace, there is now a place where anyone can call and share their personal experience with abortion. 
 
Beyond the talkline, pro-voice conversations have expanded through the Pro-Voice Fellowship. In 2012-2013, fellows traveled the country to share their abortion stories publicly and talk about their relationship with pro-voice. Audiences connected with the fellows and pro-voice, and shared their own marginalized and stigmatized experiences. 
 

4) How can I be pro-voice?

  • Value emotional wellbeing and embrace the full range of human emotions
  • Approach each person as a whole being, recognizing that many facets of a person’s life contribute to their abortion experience
  • Respect each individual’s religious, social, and political beliefs, and use their belief system to support their needs
  • Work with each person to discover their own sense of wellbeing, confident that each is a resilient, resourceful person
  • Reflect back each individual’s strengths so they can be a resource to face challenges and grow

Pro-voice is an active practice of nonviolent communication that can be learned and experienced. Through reflection and nonjudgmental conversations, it is possible to learn how to question your assumptions, cultivate self-awareness, and develop your own active listening skills. By putting pro-voice tools to work, you can actively participate in someone’s personal journey toward greater understanding and healing. You can also use pro-voice tools to support your own experiences without judging yourself.

The Pro-Voice Counseling Guide is intended to help you feel better equipped to have productive conversations about stigmatized issues with people in your lives, including abortion. You can also support someone else by providing resources and information to help strengthen their coping skills. We believe each person knows what’s best for them, and can draw upon their unique abilities when navigating complexity in their lives.

You can be pro-voice in a practical, everyday context. When you balance complexity within your story or one that you are listening to, you are practicing pro-voice. 
 

5) How can I share my story?

If you have a personal experience with abortion and are considering telling your story publicly, you can read our Ethical Storysharing Guide here. You can also add your voice by posting your own story here.

Our Storysharing Guide for Ethical Advocates contains useful information about how allies can empower storytellers and become a champions for ethical storysharing. Find it here. 

Now that you know more about pro-voice, how can you help change the way we talk about abortion in this country?

You can become a part of the pro-voice movement in many ways through Exhale's website:

  • Sign the Pro-Voice Pledge.
  • Share your story with Exhale’s community 
  • Volunteer as an Exhale talkline counselor
  • Support the people who call our talkline and build a pro-voice movement by making a donation to Exhale