Five New Grantees Bust Stigma


The Abortion Conversation Projects (ACP) Board selected five projects that address abortion stigma for funding in its Fall 2017 cycle. “We chose proposals that would benefit most from seed money and from our capacity to engage with our resources, expertise, and interests,” observes Peg Johnston, Acting ACP President.

Two of the grantees are continuations of previous Grant Partners’ work: COLOR is a group that reaches out to Latina populations in Colorado with normalizing images and messages about abortion. They will be travelling with a Photo Exhibit and a Theatre production “Relatively Normal” that they will be translating into Spanish. Jessica Lechtenberg will be assisting Lena Hann, PhD in testing a Best Practices Guide on Fetal Tissue Viewing.  They have found that clinic staff are looking for guidance when patients ask to see fetal tissue. Last year ACP collaborated on staff education  in discussing other aspects of fetal tissue policy.

Shout Your Abortion (#ShoutYourAbortion) is national group dedicated to helping people affirm their abortion experience. They are creating a high end “coffee table book” with art and stories and ACP will help them distribute copies to independent abortion facilities. EMA (Emergency Medical Assistance), an abortion fund in Palm Beach, will also showcase women’s abortion stories to stimulate public discussion of the reality of abortion experiences and especially the barriers women face.

The Ohio Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice received a grant to assist their training of clergy in a tri-state area. Clergy have been effective allies and further training will help them serve abortion patients and their own congregations as well as speak publicly against abortion stigma.

These five new grants bring the total number of projects up to 55 ACP grants since the seed grants program started in 2012 and join recent projects such as In This Together Project (Michigan) which supports staff as well as providing activities for children who may have to accompany patients. “Not At Home”, an Irish Theatre company, continues to educate the public about women who have to leave their home country to access abortion care.

Abortion Conversation Projects is committed to eliminating the stigma of abortion by supporting individuals and small groups engaged in innovative community-based projects that create new ways and opportunities to talk about abortion honestly and publicly. 

ACP designs, contributes, participates, and collaborates on stigma busting projects. ACP forms Grant Partnerships, created to reduce  the stigma surrounding abortion. Our work includes webinars, trainings, workshops, community-based seed grant funding and partnerships with our allies and grant partners. The next grant cycle is July 1, 2018. For more information consult the website, or Facebook page: Abortion Conversation Projects, or join the mailing list.

Meet Our New Grant Partners

The Abortion Conversation Projects (ACP) Board selected 6 projects that address abortion stigma for funding in its summer 2017 cycle. “We chose proposals that excite us and that would benefit most from seed money and from our capacity to engage with our resources, expertise, and interests,” observes Terry Sallas Merritt, ACP President.

Three of the projects directly help abortion providers and their clients. RECLAIM in Michigan will bring neighbors and the public into clinic space to hear stories, take tours, and understand the abortion experience more fully.  The Spiral Collective in Minnesota is a doula-based anti-stigma group that brings training to staff as a way of making space to explore how stigma affects their lives and how staff can help each other and the patients in their care. In This Together Project (Michigan) also supports staff as well as providing activities for children who may have to accompany patients; a companion activity kit for patients will help with long waits. ACP will be watching each of these projects for replication elsewhere.

Three other projects were chosen for their innovative approach to counteracting abortion stigma. ACP believes that even small amounts can leverage shifts in perception. The Centre for Solutions Journalism Project in Malawi will offer training and stipends for journalists to represent unbiased and more realistic depictions of the abortion experience in that country where abortion is still illegal. THEATREclub in Dublin Ireland will present an installation called “Not At Home” at the Fringe Festival and live streamed to the internet. The artistic event draws upon the stories of women who have had to leave Ireland to find abortion services and will offer interactive theatre to help people understand these experiences.  Abortion Access Hackathon will bring together providers and programmers and other tech people to collaborate on solutions to problems at a weekend conference in New York in the Fall.

Watch this space for progress reports on our Grant Partners. If you want to make a contribution to support these seed grants, click here.

Voice of Choice: Bold Strategy

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 field." (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.

Keep the spirit going! If you want to make a donation to the Abortion Conversation Projects to fund grassroots activism, click here. Thank you!


July 1st Grant Cycle Announced

July 1st 2017 is the deadline for new projects challenging abortion stigma. The Abortion Conversation Projects are offering resources and seed funds to grassroots groups. Applicants are encouraged to email a short description of their idea to see if the project fits with the capacity and interests of ACP, an all-volunteer organization.

“We offer feedback for those doing anti-stigma work and we will work with a few groups to make the best proposal possible,” explained ACP President Terry Sallas Merritt. “ACP can only fund and partner with a few projects each cycle and we want to save people’s valuable time so we offer this pre-application process.” The maximum grant is $2500 and winning projects can benefit from 1:1 work with experienced board members and other consultants on the Advisory Board.

To inquire about funding, email To review grant priorities, the grant toolkit, and application go to the website at "Apply for Grant".

ACP’s mission is “to challenge the polarization that characterizes abortion conversation, lessen the stigmatization of abortion, and promote speaking and listening with empathy, dignity, and resilience about even the most difficult aspects of abortion.” In addition to funding, ACP supports Grant Partners in outreach, fund-raising, evaluation and sustainability.

 ACP has funded over 30 projects so far.

ACP has funded over 30 projects so far.

Changing The Way We Talk About Abortion

At ACP, we are always happy to support conversations that reveal the complexity of abortion experiences. Check out this Sex Gets Real podcast.

Carol Sanger and Dawn Serra On Telling Our Stories, Examining Men’s Choices, And Allowing For Grief

An intimate and compelling interview with the author of “About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in 21st Century America” by Harvard University Press

When men choose to destroy embryos or terminate a pregnancy, what are the reasons they give? How has technology changed the imagery around pregnancy and abortion? What if there was a simple way to change the political discourse around abortion? Why do we trust women with raising children and shaping their future but not with the power to decide the fate of their own bodies? What is the pro-choice movement getting horribly wrong in the conversation around abortion?

Carol Sanger and Dawn Serra tackle these questions in a powerful new episode of Sex Gets Real, a weekly podcast on sexuality, relationships, and human connection. This hour-long conversation examines the results of Sanger’s 6-year quest to write “About Abortion” as well as a collection of compelling stories from those who have experienced abortion.

Creator and podcast host, Dawn Serra says, “Nuanced, sensitive, based on case law and in-depth cultural studies, Carol makes a compelling case for the harm of secrecy and why our lack of nuance in the abortion discussion is feeding the frenzy. Our chat blew me away and the stories I received from listeners about their abortions will give everyone reason to pause and reflect.”

Carol Sanger offers insights such as:

“Men [who choose to destroy embryos] said things like, ‘I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with that woman.’ Or, ‘I have enough kids already.’ Or, ‘I’m a young man & now that I’m single again the last thing I want is to be tied down by a kid.’ Or, I’m engaged in a serious work project and it would be bad to have a kid now.’ When I lined those reasons up with the reasons that women give [to terminate a pregnancy], they were quite the same.”

“We trust women with everything. We trust them with raising our children, we assign that task to them. We trust them with everything, except deciding that this might be the right time, circumstances might not be right. It’s conditional trust.”

“There are three groups that I think should start stepping up and talking about abortion. The first is grandmothers. Grandmothers are, for better or worse, thought to be non-sexual which eliminates the sex issue. The second group are ministers wives and ministers. There’s a group with moral authority who can share their story. And, the third group is men. It would be really good if men took a little responsibility here.”

As the political climate continues to restrict access to reproductive health care (and health care, in general), especially for marginalized bodies and voices, this conversation offers activists, health care providers, and anyone interested in healing the abortion conversation a powerful new framework for considering the debate and influencing politics using the personal.




Teaching Reproductive Justice

"Reproductive justice -- women having power over our own bodies -- is the crucial first step toward any democracy, any human rights, and any justice."

That quote by feminist icon Gloria Steinem is on the cover of a new book titled Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, by ACP advisory board member Loretta J. Ross. along with historian Rickie Solinger.

The book itself is a first step in educating new audiences about a movement that was created in 1994 by women of color, including Ross, a cofounder of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.  Ross will publish two more books about the topic in the near future, including one titled Radical Reproductive Justice. 

At the official launch event in Atlanta this month, Ross said the book is designed for high school and college students and "will contribute to the exciting upsurge of reproductive justice activism and scholarship."

Here is an excerpt from Chapter One: A Reproductive Justice History:

Reproductive justice is a contemporary framework for activism and for thinking about the experience of reproduction. It is also a political movement that splices ‘reproductive rights’ with ‘social justice.’ The definition of reproductive justice goes beyond the pro-choice/pro-life debate and has three primary principles: (1) the right not to have a child; (2) the right to have a child; and (3) the right to parent children in safe and healthy environments. In addition, reproductive justice demands sexual autonomy and gender freedom for every human being.

At the heart of reproductive justice is this claim: all fertile persons and persons who reproduce and become parents require a safe and dignified context for these most fundamental human experiences. Achieving this goal depends on access to specific community-based resources including high-quality healthcare, housing and education, a living wage, a healthy environment, and a safety net for times when these resources fail. Safe and dignified fertility management, childbirth, and parenting are impossible without these resources. 

The case for reproductive justice makes another basic claim: access to these material resources is justified on the ground that safe and dignified fertility management, childbirth, and parenting together constitute a fundamental human right. Human rights, a global idea, are what governments owe to the people they govern and include both negative and positive rights. Negative rights are a government's obligation to refrain from unduly interfering with people’s mental, physical, and spiritual autonomy. Positive rights are a government’s obligation to ensure that people can exercise their freedoms and enjoy the benefits of society. 

Reproductive justice uses a human rights framework to draw attention to — and resist — laws and public and corporate policies based on racial, gender, and class prejudices. These laws and policies deny people the right to control their bodies, interfere with their reproductive decision making, and ultimately, prevent many people from being able to live with dignity in safe and healthy communities. 

The human rights analysis rests on the claim that interference with the safety and dignity of fertile and reproducing persons is a blow against their humanity — that is, against their rights as human beings. 

You can buy this book on Amazon. And did you know? Whenever you shop through and select Abortion Conversation Projects, a portion of your purchase is donated to our organization. Learn more about this no-cost way to support our stigma-busting efforts by clicking here: Slay Stigma While You Shop! It's Free!

Also, make a direct donation to ACP by clicking here-->> Thank you for donating!

Abortion Conversation Projects is building a Stigma-Busting Community. Join us through our website , Facebook, and Twitter @ACPabortion. Please donate to help us change conversations around abortion care. 

Slay Stigma While You Shop. It's Free!

DYK?  You can financially support Abortion Conversation Projects and our stigma-slaying work — at no cost to you.

It’s free! It’s easy! It’s as simple as shopping on-line at Amazon, just like you normally do.

The only difference is that you log in through When you do this, 0.5% of your purchase is donated to us through AmazonSmileFoundation.  

Just go to and follow the prompts to select Abortion Conversation Projects. 

Then every time you shop, enter Amazon through the in you web browser or mobile device. Add a bookmark to make shopping and donating even quicker and easier.

Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile qualify for donations. You will see them marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages.

Thank you for helping to end the silence and shame around abortion care by shopping through

Another way to support our stigma-busting work is to make a direct donation. Feeling generous? Just click right here to give to our world-changing efforts: Thank You For Donating. 

Abortion Conversation Projects is building a Stigma-Busting Community. Join us through our website , Facebook, and Twitter @ACPabortion. Please donate to help us change conversations around abortion care. 

A Call to Validate Each Other and Celebrate Victories

ACP Advisory Board Member Loretta Ross is a major figure in modern black history, a visionary leader who helped create the Reproductive Justice Movement and who continues to champion abortion as a human right that fits into a broader crusade for economic, gender, and racial equality.

This Black History Month, Ross has a profoundly hopeful outlook on the future, despite the challenges of a Republican-controlled federal government and state legislators obsessed with blocking access to abortion care.

“The sky is not falling,” says Ross, who sees current events through the lens of history. “For people who endure oppression, there have always been times like these. What’s important is that we will not go back and we will not back down.”

Instead of giving into fear and negativity, Ross encourages advocates for safe, legal, and nonjudgmental abortion care to “validate and celebrate each other” and focus on the victories. 

To help us all fulfill her mandate, here are four great reasons to rejoice:

1. More people are engaged. Abortion providers reported an unprecedented surge in volunteer applications at their clinics after last month’s Women’s March on Washington, which galvanized millions of people around the globe to pour into the streets to protest threats to reproductive and other rights. 

2. The language is evolving. After decades of lazy reporting on reproductive rights as “pro-choice versus pro-life,” journalists are finally paying attention to the wider framing that declares“Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” In this article about the history of the phrase, Ross explains that she has waited for three decades to finally see it become a clarion call for feminist organizing.

3. Research is building. Studies are being completed that debunk fake science used by anti-choice zealots in court cases and propaganda campaigns. This month, ANSIRH and Innovating Education in Reproductive Health released this series of videos and lectures called Abortion Explained, making their stigma-busting research accessible to the wider public. 

4. Grassroots efforts are proliferating. Creative individuals around the globe continue to design unique projects to end the unjustified shame of abortion and replace it with much-deserved affirmation, respect, and dignity.

At ACP, we have the honor of providing funds and other resources to people who work on the frontline of culture change at the community level. We have received far more applications for funds than we could grant, showing that the desire to end abortion stigma is stronger than ever.

In addition to our current grant partners, many innovative stigma-busters submitted proposals that should give everyone hope for the future. Here is a sampling of those unique projects:

The Sea Change Program has created a board game for young people to play with their friends. It sparks conversations with questions about sex, relationships and reproduction.

Shout Your Abortion envisions a children’s book about abortion that would generate intimate conversations within families and help normalize abortion. 

Working with Women Help Women International, Susan Yanow wants to see a guide about medication abortion that includes a section to educate about language, pointing out terms that stigmatize and offering new words that dignify.

The Youth Association for Development (YAD) in Pakistan is working on a training program and radio messages that will focus on helping men become supporters of abortion.

The SAYWHAT Organization in Zimbabwe has a plan to document abortion stories on video, audio, and text to reach young people and community leaders who have the power to influence opinions.

The Maternal and Child Health Initiative (MACHI) in Uganda envisions targeting one industrial area to set up intimate, one-on-one conversations in its Break The Silence Project.

Abortion Conversation Projects is building a Stigma-Busting Community. Join us through our website , Facebook, and Twitter @ACPabortion. Please donate to help us change conversations around abortion care. 

A Novel Way to Begin This New Year

Despite the new challenges facing the reproductive justice movement, we resolve to stay positive about shifting conversations about abortion care. One way to stay hopeful about a brighter future is to read great literature. The perfect place to start is with the new novel The Mothers about the ways one girl's abortion affects the different members of her African American faith community. Author Brit Bennett presents different perspectives with honor and respect, and without capitulating to stigma or anti-abortion biases. What follows is ACP Board Member Jeannie Ludlow's book review.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Riverhead Books, 2016. ISBN: 9780399184512. 288 pp. Available as an ebook. This review originally was published on Jeannie Ludlow's blog

As a literature instructor who studies abortion and stigmatization, I read a lot of fiction and poetry about abortion. I’m happy to report that I have a new favorite: Brit Bennett’s The Mothers. This novel is the best I have read at leaving behind the simplicities of “prochoice vs. anti-abortion” and telling a complex, honest, and anti-stigmatizing abortion story.

What are our most difficult conversations about abortion, the ones that we wish we could avoid? Race, religion, the fetus, men’s experiences, money—this novel focuses a shimmering and compassionate light on all of these as it traces the reverberations from one high school girl’s abortion into the faith community of her African American church in southern California.

The novel is told in the plural voice of “the Mothers,” the women elders in the church, who bring their collective wisdom, compassion, and judgment to the story. The novel opens, “We didn’t believe when we first heard because you know how church folk can gossip. Like the time we all thought First John, our head usher, was messing around on his wife . . .” In these two sentences, Bennett establishes the Mothers’ tone, simultaneously understanding and disapproving, familiar, and just a little unreliable, always giving themselves an out in case they are mistaken. After all, they are the “church folk” whose gossip drives the story.

When seventeen-year-old Nadia gets pregnant a few months after her mother has killed herself, the community should not be surprised. After all, as the Mothers tell us, Nadia “had earned a wild reputation—she was young and scared and trying to hide her scared in prettiness.” Nadia’s father, absorbed by his own grief, cannot see her struggles. Nadia arranges for and has an abortion without his knowledge.

One of the things about abortion that Bennett gets so beautifully right is how hard it is for people to talk about. Nadia and Luke, her boyfriend, talk past one another, neither one ever saying what they really want. When they do get adults involved, the adults can only say the easy, stereotypical things about consequences and responsibility that, we know, cover over deep-rooted fear, disappointment, and guilt.

The scene in the abortion clinic is respectful, and spot-on accurate. There’s the angry mom who chastises her daughter in the waiting room: “‘Cut all that out,’ she said. ‘You wanted to be grown? Well, now you grown.’” There’s Nadia’s clothing: “she felt the nurse give her a once-over, eyes drifting past her red blouse, skinny jeans, black pumps. ‘Should’ve worn something more comfortable,’ the nurse said. . . . ‘Someone should’ve told you that when you called.’ ‘They did,’” Nadia replies. After her abortion, Nadia lies to her dad about her cramps and then sneaks out to a party that she really should not attend.

  Jeannie Ludlow

Jeannie Ludlow

Bennett has successfully written a nuanced abortion story in which everyone gets it a little bit wrong and a little bit right, even the Crisis Pregnancy Center counselor who befriends Nadia’s boyfriend years later. The author makes it possible for us to sympathize with Luke and Nadia and their parents, even as we shake our heads (with the Mothers) over their failings. These characters are human, real, neither ideal nor flawed. When Nadia’s abortion story comes to light several years later, its aftermath reveals both the fragilities and the strengths of the church and its people.

The Mothers presents many different perspectives on abortion with respect and care, while refusing to participate in abortion stigmatization. It has been named a “best book of 2016” by NPR, Elle, Vogue, Goodreads, and Entertainment Weekly, all well-deserved honors. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Abortion Conversation Projects is building a Stigma-Busting Community. Join us through our websiteFacebook, and Twitter @ACPabortion. Please donate to help us change conversations around abortion care.