Todd Stave found himself in a situation that is familiar to most of us. An outrageous injustice happens. How do you react? Here's what happened: Anti-abortion protesters showed up at his daughter's middle school carrying signs with his name, address and phone number on them. They were trying to pressure him into canceling the lease of Dr. Leroy Carhart, an abortion provider. (article here) Todd says, "I like to tell people that I developed my strategies when I was on the playground in grade school." Although he may have felt like letting a punch fly, he founded Voice of Choice and crafted a strategy that was at once bold, simple, and assertive. "And while we have had great success turning the tables on those who were used to acting with impunity, the reality is that people from both sides of the abortion argument admire the civility in the way we make our point. We try to remove the hate and violence. We respect others’ beliefs, even though we disagree with them."
Voice of Choice mobilized hundreds of volunteers to push back on anti-abortion protesters when they harassed providers or activists all over the country. They found a way to harness people's anger and sense of justice into direct contact with the protesters. Says Todd Stave, "Our most important achievement over the past years has been to reduce the fear and humiliation of those who need abortion services or those working in and around the industry." (speech by Todd Stave, 2011)
We appreciate this achievement, which parallels the Abortion Conversation Projects’ mission to challenge the shaming around abortion. The protesters at Todd Stave's daughter's school were banking on him feeling that stigma. They were not prepared for Stave and others who have had an abortion or provide abortions to stand up and refuse to be shamed. There are many different strategies for addressing stigma and ACP is supporting a wide variety of projects and methods.
We have supported escorts at dozens of clinics across the country through the Clinic Vest Project. One of our grantee partners, Architexx, has engaged the design community in creating model barriers around clinics that create feelings of safety for staff and patients. Our most recent grantee partner, The Abortion Broadcast, has created podcasts of interviews with abortion care staff revealing the humanity of those that provide abortion services. Two ACP projects have erected powerful murals on the outside of clinics where anti abortion harassment is particularly fierce.
Stave has decided that it's time to close down the Voice of Choice and he has chosen the Abortion Conversation Projects to receive its resources, including contact information for those people who have volunteered to respond to anti abortion harassment. While the Voice of Choice is unique in its tactics, it shares a common goal with ACP: to challenge abortion stigma where it occurs.
Todd Stave and the volunteers of Voice for Choice stood up for abortion rights and opposed stigmatizing behavior with strength and dedication. We salute the achievements of those volunteers and invite them to join us in other anti-stigma actions.