“The shortest distance between a human being and the truth is a story.” I heard this quote on the morning of January 27th from my pastor talking about the why of Jesus’ parables. Stories are powerful.
Approximately fifty people gathered at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. later that day for “An Evening with Aspen Baker in celebration of the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” an event sponsored by Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic (PPHP) and Manhattanville’s Duchesne Center’s Global Citizenship Program.
After her own abortion in 1999, Aspen Baker founded Exhale, a Talkline to reach out to the post-abortive community she calls “pro-voice”. Exhale encourages women and men to tell their abortion stories. Their mission statement: “Exhale creates a social climate where each person’s unique experience with abortion is supported, respected, and free from stigma. Exhale provides services, training and education to empower individuals, families and communities to achieve post-abortion health and well-being.”
A peace activist and a well-educated and sincere spokesperson, Aspen says that post-abortive people must be allowed to tell their stories, and that they need someone to listen non-judgmentally, free from the politics on either side of the issue. With reactions to abortion ranging from regret to relief, she says she offers a service to a society where “there is no cultural language to discuss this issue, only ones political or moral”. During the Q&A period she did speak about the difficult and undeniable reality for some to seek ways to live a lifetime with the sin and regret of abortion.
Attendees of the event, like Westchester County Legislator Judy Meyers, were told that signs, buttons, etc., were not permitted at this “bias-free” zone. Baker, a recipient of several local San Francisco awards, was named “Top Activist Under 30” by Choice USA in 2003. She was introduced by PPHP’s President Reina Schiffrin, and with Baker’s light-hearted asides about Rush Limbaugh and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow’s Super Bowl ad controversy, and the cautionary warnings by Schiffrin about abortion being “singled out” in heath care reform, the evening was not quite bias-free, but it was interesting and worthwhile.
In one of her blogs about abortion Ms. Baker says, “Our public dialogue has not made room to hear these stories or to learn from them.” It is good to listen, but learn what? If “pro-voice” advocates are not going to come to the conclusion that abortion destroys a child in the womb and overwhelmingly hurts women and so speak out in their defense to stop this madness, then who will?
At the end of the presentation I shared the above quote with Aspen and thanked her for listening to women’s stories of abortion; women deserve this. I told her about the post-abortive work of Theresa Bonopartis. I also told her that I hoped she would have the courage to share the moral of these abortion stories. That to do so is not "politics" or "religion", but common sense. Women deserve the truth about abortion before, not after they have one. Silence in the face of facts continues to kill and to wound.
A generation has been lost to abortion. I hope it will not take another generation of storytelling for women to believe that abortion is neither the stuff of peace nor bias-free.
Some Talkline statistics: 93% female, 5-9% male; 77% post-abortive women; 56% first trimester; 54% under age 30. Exhale’s website is www.4exhale.org.
by Judith Anderson