THEY Say, I Say...WHO Says? What We Need are Dialogues, Not More Debates, about Abortion

Jeannie Ludlow, Ph.D.  Associate Prof., English & Coordinator, Women's Studies & Women's Resource Center, Eastern Illinois Univ.; Board Member, Abortion Conversation Project

 As we move toward the election in the fall, we will certainly see more debates between candidates. This got me thinking about debating—what it can and cannot accomplish and, more to the point, whether we should be doing it at all. Here is a re-visited blog of mine from 2013....

When I picture a debate, I see people standing next to each other, looking in the same direction (toward winning), talking against one another. When I picture a dialogue, I see people looking at one another, talking and listening to each other.

Very often, in the U.S., we characterize conversations about abortion as “the abortion debate” (or, worse, “the abortion war”). What we mean by that, of course, is that there is a prochoice side that emphasizes the individual rights of pregnant people and a prolife side that emphasizes the personhood or potential personhood of developing fetuses. Every person or opinion is mapped onto one side or the other. And this shows exactly what is wrong with “debate” as a way to think about abortion.

First of all, debate imposes a binary (two-sided) structure onto a complex issue and assumes a single best answer. A typical abortion debate is prochoice vs. prolife, and a “good” debate provides a civil discussion between two opposing sides. The assumption is that one side will win the debate. But how many people really think in such simple terms?

More to the point, how many people live in such categories? This brings me to my second criticism of abortion debate: debate moves us out of the realm of life and into the realm of abstract ideas like rights and personhood.

In my work as an abortion clinic patient advocate, I learned from patients that abortion is almost never a yes-or-no (or rights-or-personhood) proposition. For the patients who sought our care, abortion was not a question of “is this fetus a person or not?” And only when politicians imposed limitations did patients focus on “do I have the right to have an abortion or not?” Most people’s abortion experiences are best charted along a path with many detours and cul-de-sacs. Abortion is a complex part of people’s complex lives.

I believe what we need are dialogues, not more debates, about abortion. Dialogues are about sharing—our ideas, our experiences, our principles. Difficult dialogues require us to communicate with people whose ideas, experiences, and principles are very different from our own, in order to move toward a more authentic, compassionate understanding of the issue at hand. According to literary scholar Darcy Brandel, in her essay “Performing Invisibility,” difficult dialogues do not seek common ground, nor do they resolve easily into satisfactory answers. The whole purpose of difficult dialogues is not to make them more simple but to honor and embrace their difficulty.

Obviously, difficult dialogues are not simple and never predictable. They can be very uncomfortable. Brandel says they are irresolvable—if we are going to engage in difficult dialogues about abortion, we must let go of the notion that we can figure out abortion, can come to some kind of knowledge or answer about it. We must be willing to stand in the middle of the messiness that is people’s real lives, to join one another in those life experiences that don’t always make sense.

One of the most important differences between debate and difficult dialogue is how we listen. In a debate, I listen in order to prove my opponent wrong. In difficult dialogues, I listen in order to learn, to complicate my understanding and challenge myself, to hear others’ perspectives, even when I do not agree with them—in short, I listen in order to have a more authentic understanding of humanity. When I picture a debate, I see people standing next to each other, looking in the same direction (toward winning), talking against one another. When I picture a dialogue, I see people looking at one another, talking and listening to each other.

What would a difficult dialogue about abortion look like? How can we find the courage to engage in difficult dialogues? More importantly, why would we even bother?

Picture an abortion debate, with two experts on stage, speaking civilly about the limits of the right to abortion and the limits of an unborn child’s personhood.

Now, imagine a woman joining them on the stage, looking at them both and saying, “I had an abortion so I could keep my job and be financially able to support my two children.” Suddenly, a woman’s life is real, her abortion is real, and the discussion could be real.

Now, that’s a “debate” I would like to hear.

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The Clinic Vest Project: Their Vest is Their Voice

Dawn is breaking on a Saturday before Easter, and about 60 anti-abortion protesters begin massing in front of the EMW Women's Surgical Center in downtown Louisville, KY.

With a portable loudspeaker in one hand and a microphone at his lips, one protester launches what ultimately becomes a two-hour sermon of shame aimed at clients seeking legal reproductive healthcare.

But clinic escorts are ready. About 40 of them form a line on the sidewalk in front of the building, and they, too, are loud and clear — yet they never have to utter a single word.

What they are wearing does all the talking.

They sport neon vests the color of traffic cones. The escorts create a human chain so bright that from a distance it looks as if a giant has drawn a huge orange slash on the city block with a colossal Sharpie.

“The vest is a powerful thing,” says Benita Ulisano, a clinic escort in Chicago and board member of The Clinic Vest Project. “It communicates a sense of peaceful authority to anti-choice protestors, and a sense of protection for our patients and their companions.”

Since 2013, the non-profit has provided 1,800 vests — free of charge — to clinic escort groups in 26 states and in Canada. The project received a grant from Abortion Conversation Project to help distribute more vests.

In Louisville, EMW staff members “value and appreciate the escorts immensely,” says the clinic director. “When we warn patients about the protestors outside and their anti-abortion clinic next to us, it is so great when we can tell them to ‘look for the people in the orange vests and they will keep you company and bring you to the right door.’ ” 

“We frequently have patients sigh with relief when they see the vest,” says Louisville escort Pat Canon.

The vests also make a statement to the general public as motorists drive past clinics. “The escort vest is an obvious sign we stand for pro-access,” Canon says. “It clearly shows we are there to support patients going into the clinic in a non-judgmental way.”

Escorts let the vest speak for them on the sidewalk, keeping personal conversation among themselves to a minimum and never engaging with protesters.

Clinic escorts at EMW in Louisville, KY

Clinic escorts at EMW in Louisville, KY

But away from the clinic, the escorts play a vital role in starting conversations that challenge abortion stigma. The Louisville escorts routinely get together after volunteering, and some will share about their own abortions and the stigma they have faced.

“They always say they are grateful for the non-judgmental space to freely talk about their experiences,” Canon says. “Some people say they haven’t had that freedom to talk about their abortions for as long as 20 years.”

Also, when Canon is away from the clinic and out socializing, she often mentions her volunteer work and is amazed by what happens next.  “One by one, people will pull me aside and privately tell me their abortion stories,” she says. “ They are so relieved to be able to tell someone they know will not judge them.”

Clinic vests are so effective at communicating assurance that some anti-abortion protesters have begun wearing them to try to deceive patients into walking with them. But once they open their mouths, their fraud is exposed.

The Clinic Vest Project, which serves 55 escort groups at 85 clinics, provides vests in turquoise, orange, and pink with wording such as “Pro-Choice Clinic Escort”  or “Clinic Escort Volunteer.” Vests also are available with Spanish text.

But no matter the color or language, clinic vests blare one unmistakable message: This is a person you can trust.

Ulisano remembers the time a man brought his daughter to the clinic and initially waved her away. “But then he asked who we were and asked about our vests,” she recalls.

After she explained, the man was grateful for her help. “He said, ‘I trust you. Please walk my daughter in,’ ” Ulisano recalls. “He told his daughter to stay close to ‘the lady in pink.’ That meant the world to me.”

~By Karen Harris Thurston

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Unapologetic & Unafraid: Conversations That Raise Abortion Funds

By Karen Harris Thurston, ACP Board Member

Abortion is highly stigmatized in the Deep South, so just bringing up the topic for general discussion can be tricky. Raising funds for abortion care can be even more challenging.

Few people understand the art of these conversations better than Oriaku Njoku, co-founder and executive director of Access Reproductive Care - Southeast. Her Atlanta-based reproductive justice organization helps people in Southern states overcome economic, racial, and gender barriers to reproductive healthcare.

ARC’s mission is many layered and involves building community alliances, advocating for social justice, and promoting equality for everyone regardless of zip code and income level. The non-profit also provides financial assistance to people who cannot pay for reproductive services, and it depends on donations to do so.

Njoku, who also works as a patient advocate at an abortion clinic, admits that asking people to open their wallets for abortion care can sometimes be difficult.

 “Living and loving in the Bible Belt has taught me to proceed with caution,” says Njoku, “but there is a difference between being cautious and being afraid to unapologetically stand for what I believe in.”

Njoku has developed successful strategies for carrying on the complex conversations that seek donations for abortion care:

1. Keep the main focus on relations, not donations.

“I think the end goal is building a positive relationship with someone and getting them to join the movement, as opposed to being involved in a moment,” she says. “For us to sustain in the long-haul, we need people who are invested in making reproductive justice a reality through their financial contributions, their volunteer work, and their engagement in organizations.”

2. Know your audience.

Tailoring conversations to match different personalities and settings is the key to meaningful dialogue, Njoku says.

With strangers, such as an Uber driver, she often begins by being genuinely curious about them.  She asks questions about their work and interests, and she listens intently. She looks for a connection with her own life, and shares about her work.  “When I tell them what I do, I mention why I believe it’s important to raise money for abortions,” she says.

With friends or family members, she has more time and opportunity to talk at greater length about the problems of stigma and shame around abortion, conversations that build empathy and compassion for those who need assistance.

3. Make it personal.

Whether talking to strangers, acquaintances or close friends, Njoku says to avoid a scripted conversation. Instead, be candid about why you are passionate about helping others gain access to abortion care.

For Njoku, that means talking about her experiences working with patients in an abortion clinic, where she witnesses the hardships faced by people of color, people who live in poverty, people struggling to survive on the margins of society. Then she explains how seeing these situations of extreme discrimination and inequity compelled her to start ARC-Southeast.

4. Take time to educate.

Many people are unaware of the complex obstacles individuals and families face when trying to to access reproductive healthcare. Njoku clarifies the terminology and goals of the movement, distinguishing between the traditional pro-choice narratives and the intersectional inclusiveness of reproductive justice.

“Folks who aren’t involved with pro-choice feminist movements may be put off by pro-choice language because the decisions people must make go beyond choice,” she says. “It’s important to make connections with how reproductive justice is economic justice, racial justice, and gender justice.”

5. Be persistent but not relentless.

Njoku suggests giving people a chance to think about the information you have shared with them. If they are initially noncommittal, approach them two more times to ask for a donation, but then stop.

6. Beware of the don’ts.

Don’t get upset when people say no. Don’t shame people into giving a donation. And don’t appear reluctant or reticent when seeking support for abortion care.

Says Njoku, “Believe in your cause! Truly believe in the most unapologetic way.”

***

The Abortion Conversation thanks Oriaku Njoku and her staff at Access Reproductive Care - Southeast for their efforts to end abortion stigma.

To learn more about how to challenge the silence and shame around abortion, please click here to sign up for our newsletter.

 

Caution: Personal Abortion Stories in the Marketplace

    ACP is honored to welcome our new Board Member, Karen Thurston and her personal insights about media treatment of the growing trend of people bravely sharing their abortion experiences on-line.      Be warned, she advises if, among other conditions, editors are  “Asking readers to send in a particular kind of abortion narrative to fit a specific frame.”     

 

ACP is honored to welcome our new Board Member, Karen Thurston and her personal insights about media treatment of the growing trend of people bravely sharing their abortion experiences on-line.  

Be warned, she advises if, among other conditions, editors are “Asking readers to send in a particular kind of abortion narrative to fit a specific frame.”

 

ACP believes cultural change happens in connection.  Sharing your own abortion experience story can be healing for those who find their voice and for those who hear you and grow stronger.

For decades, stories in the media about abortion have been told by everyone from preachers to politicians, but rarely by those who have actually experienced abortion.

Since 2014, that skewed dynamic has changed. More people are breaking their silence, challenging the stigma, and sharing the complex situations around ending their pregnancies. They are opening up in highly public venues, from Facebook and Twitter, to digital magazines and traditional newspapers.

Ideally, every personal abortion story would be handled with respect in the media, encouraging more people to talk about this common medical procedure. But in reality, some venues will exploit abortion stories to sell subscriptions, advertisements, and political points of view. Story tellers and readers alike should approach every media venue with healthy wariness.

Consider TheAtlantic.comwhich since early January has been inviting readers to send in their intimate experiences of abortion.

Personal Stories of Abortion Made Public is part of the digital magazine’s ‘reader engagement’ effort — a business strategy to attract consumers and advertisers in an intensely competitive field crowded with social media platforms, blog sites and news apps.

The editors post prompts pegged to various news events in the Notes section, and readers are encouraged to write in with their opinions and experiences.

 What happens next is hidden from our view. People we know nothing about make undocumented changes to the text, create headlines, and add introductions, all in a bid to attract and keep reader attention.

Here are key questions to ask when reading The Atlantic series, as well as other first-person abortion narratives published in the popular and profit-driven media:

Do the headlines and other editor-created text contain stigmatizing language?  Several of The Atlantic’s abortion narratives are topped with emotionally charged headlines: Blood Was Pouring Down My Face and Down My Throat, screams one. I Got Down to the Basement and Blood Was Everywhere, blares another. Roe v. Wade ‘Unleashed a Beast,’ warns another.

Introductions to the stories prime readers with subjective appraisals of what’s in store. The editors size up the stories for us, characterizing them as gruesome, tragic, heartbreaking, and harrowing. We are told this author isanguished and that author struggles.

At one point, an editor adds her own commentary after a story, introducing the term infanticide and elaborating that the topic is “particularly charged, not least because of the common-sense ‘disgust’ factor.”  She includes a handy link to a dense, 29-page academic paper titled, Infanticide.

Do the editors hold personal biases about abortion?  The two editors whose names appear with The Atlantic’s reader-generated content, Chris Bodenner and Emma Green, do not state their individual views on abortion. This lack of transparency leaves readers to wonder about their editing decisions.

Some indications of editor bias include:

  • Asking readers to send in a particular kind of abortion narrative to fit a specific frame.  Green, the publication’s managing editor who also writes about religion and culture, did just that after one reader’s abortion entry. Green asks the audience to send in more stories, “particularly ones that show some of the moral ambiguity in these choices.”
  • Offering a negative assessment of the words others use when they talk about their abortions.  That’s what Green did when she launched the abortion story-telling section with a ‘note’ titled The Power of Making Abortion Personal. Her prompt, which focuses on the 113 attorneys who filed briefs about their abortions in the Supreme Court case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, spotlights what she terms the “cognitive dissonance” in the language of the briefs:

“My child” is a way of talking about a person, an entity that can think and has a moral identity. But that’s the opposite of the argument that this brief is making—it’s not a moral issue, these women are saying. It’s a health issue, and a lifestyle issue, and a career issue. The vocabulary seems to fall short of that.

  •  Including stories that are not told by people who have experienced abortion.  The Atlantic editors included a lengthy entry by a man whose narrative is about rejecting abortion, headlinedFathers Have Virtually ZERO Rights.
  •  Expressing a viewpoint about abortion in other published pieces.  For example, last summer, Green wrote this piece headlined,Why are Fewer American Women Getting Abortions? It’s not, she concludes, because women have better access to affordable birth control. It’s because “fewer women feel comfortable getting an abortion.”  

Millennials, she declares, are deeply conflicted about abortion for moral reasons, as their views are shaped by religious faith. And Americans in general, she asserts, “are moving away from embracing abortion, not toward it.”

Also, Green recently wrote this story about a book spotlighting progressives in the anti-abortion movement, and her analysis was featured in this enthusiasticpiece at The American Conservative.

How heavy a hand do the editors have in altering the reader-generated stories?  We cannot ask The Atlantic’s reader-authors if or how much their words were changed or rearranged, because their identities are kept anonymous.  We can only consider the high quality of the writing and wonder: Do the editors take liberties to accentuate certain scenarios and heighten emotional impact? Do they embellish, omit, or rearrange any details to shape the stories for maximum attraction?

Also, as gatekeepers, do they exclude any stories that don’t fit a preferred frame?

These are mysteries embedded between the lines of the abortion series in The Atlantic’s Notes section, as well as in other media venues publishing abortion stories.

If you want to share your abortion story with the public, spend time researching the site to help ensure your story will be presented with the respect and dignity it deserves. Also, consider sharing through the many grassroots venues listed on our website.

***

Karen Thurston is an elementary school teacher’s assistant in Georgia. She has shared her abortion experiences in several public venues, including elle.com, refinery29.com, thinkprogress.org, msnbc.com, and The Abortion Diary Podcast.

Six New Grant Partners Announced for Fall 2015

Abortion is so often silenced in both private discussions and public discourse, which is why ACP’s seventh cycle of seed funding aims to give voices a place to be heard in diverse communities. The Abortion Conversation Project (ACP) announced six successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Fall 2015 round of Seed Support Grants. “Each of these projects will expand where and how abortion conversations can happen,” states ACP President, Terry Sallas Merritt.

The “Artivism” project of the COLORado 1 in 3 Youth Council will blend artistic expression with activism on Denver campuses as it fosters dialogue and story collection to destigmatize abortion among young people, especially Latina women. In Buffalo, NY ACP funds will be used to start a Western NY Reproductive Justice Film Series to stimulate discussion and also encourage small acts of social awareness. The group Passion for Women and Children in Malawi will create a short video to put a human face on abortion in a country where the procedure is highly restricted and stigmatized.

The NYC Doula Project will produce an Abortion Self Care booklet to be shared with patients and other doula groups, thus sharing the philosophy of nonjudgmental care to a greater community. Lena Hann will use her Seed Grant to develop a guide to help clinic workers show interested patients fetal tissue. The Clinic Vest Project will provide more brightly colored vests to patient escort services all over the country.

“Each cycle we are impressed with the level of commitment to end abortion stigma and these projects have shown innovative approaches to shifting the culture around abortion dialogue. It is an honor for us to support them with seed funding as well as a connection for resources and problem-solving,” noted Sallas Merritt.

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 or next-steps.

***

Founded in 2000, ACP spent its early years promoting post abortion emotional health, de-stigmatizing abortion through handouts for parents, partners, and patients themselves, and staging community conversations to have deeper conversations among diverse pro-choice audiences. Currently, ACP offers small “seed” grants to engage many more people in its mission. The next cycle starts July 1st, 2016.

The Abortion Conversation Project has a Facebook page, and Twitter @AcpAbortion. Supporters can also receive the ACP e-newsletters by clicking on the link on the home page or Facebook page.

Why Give Money for Stigma Busting?

The Abortion Conversation Project has given seed grants to 25 groups and individuals over the past 2 and a half years. Why? And , what is the impact?

First of all, how does culture change happen? If you are following the model that the Sea Change Program created, it starts with bringing affected individuals together to talk. Then, they might try to extend their perceptions of abortion to other people, to an institution they belong to, to the media, or to change policy or laws. Stigma works on all levels at once, so there are a lot of fronts to bust the stigma surrounding abortion.

We feel that working on a grassroots level with small groups or individuals has a lot of promise. There are a lot of national efforts, some very effective, but to engage people in a community where you can talk face to face is very powerful in shifting people’s attitudes. It’s rare to be asked to join in some activity in your town, and not just donate money or sign a petition. We think culture change starts with a connection.

We at ACP also believe in creativity and innovation.  Truthfully, we love art in all forms. We love when people come up with new and interesting ways to connect and to amplify their voices.  We hope our seed grants encourage a creative touch to busting abortion stigma.

And impact. It’s hard to know who will be touched by the new mural at Whole Woman’s Health in McAllen Texas. Or, by a Plants 4 Patients pot received by a patient at Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, ND.  We can’t always know, but we work hard with our grantees to plan and evaluate projects so that we can maximize impact.

Finally, as much as money helps, we like to think that our support helps even more. We offer advice on organizing, planning, evaluating, and more. Frankly, who doesn’t need a cheerleader for their work? 

So, just a few days til our Nov. 1 deadline. Next one July 1st!

Empowering Communities: ACP Announces Five New Grants

A cultural shift about abortion can happen when people in communities start conversations, and ACP’s sixth cycle of seed funding aims to empower communities. The Abortion Conversation Project (ACP) announced five successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Summer 2015 round of Seed Support Grants. “We are building a Stigma-Busting Community from the grassroots up,” states ACP President, Terry Sallas Merritt.

  1. Texas has been hit hard by regressive legislation that has drastically limited women’s access to abortion services, affecting Black and Latina populations disproportionally. The Afiya Center is receiving funds for Texas Black Women’s Organizing Launch to create a movement for more engagement.
  2. Pope Francis is visiting Philadelphia and The Women’s Centers are organizing positive Faith Messaging During the World Meeting of Families.
  3. Activists at NYU are creating a zine on College Abortion Experiences with the support of an ACP Seed Grant.
  4. Holding the Space in the Boston area will create a space where all pregnancy losses can be recognized.
  5. Emerge, a successful after abortion support group, previously a grantee to develop a curriculum for replication in other communities, now will be offered in two cities by Backline, a national pregnancy talkline.

“It is inspiring to see the innovative projects of people who want to speak up, reach out, and make new conversations that affirm dignity and respect for those making pregnancy decisions. It is an honor for us to support them with seed funding as well as a connection for resources and problem-solving,” noted Sallas Merritt.

What’s in a logo? A beautiful future for ACP

Heather Ault, ACP Board member and creator of 4000 Years for Choice, designed a new logo for the Abortion Conversation Project. Initially she produced over 20 designs for the board to look at and  discuss.

Then attendees at the Abortion Care Network conference voted on their favorites from four possibilities. It’s amazing how engaging the process was and how thoughtful people were: “I love the conversation bubbles.” “This one is too cartoony” “Is the topic abortion or ACP?” “I like where they overlap.” “I like the free flowing one…” etc etc. Until finally a version of the logo above was chosen in a squeaker of a contest.

Logo design is not for the faint-hearted, and we are so lucky to have Heather Ault on our team! She tinkered with just the right font, the coolest colors, and different versions of the logo for various uses. Need a logo or design services? Consider Heather Ault. You can see her design portfolio at www.heatherault.org.

Reaching out to new audiences: The Dating Game

ACP Board President, Terry Sallas Merritt, recently did an interview with datingadvice.com, a decidedly new audience for the Abortion Conversation Project. Usually, and unfortunately, pro-choice activists are guilty of “talking to ourselves.” A dating site attracts ordinary people, perhaps people who have never really considered the topic of abortion. And yet, these are  folks that may face an unintended pregnancy or who have already had an abortion experience. Remember, 37% of all women will have an abortion before the age of 45. So, introducing the topic on a general interest site is precisely where we need to be.

According to Sallas Merritt, it’s all about taking small steps that stop perpetuating silence and encourage listening and understanding.

“When the conversation comes up and you hear that stigma language, you don’t want to let it hang in the air. You can say ‘For me, I would not assume I could make this important decision for anyone else but myself,’” she said. “This is what being pro-choice is all about, respecting the moral authority and capability of people to make these decisions. I think even if you are not comfortable sharing your story, you can be comfortable sharing the universal idea of respect and dignity.”

Hayley Matthews, the editor in chief of Dating Advice, is responsible for creating diverse and controversial content for the site. Even if you don’t need a date, check out her content.

Fall 2014 Funding Cycle: ACP awards four grants

How do you shift the conversation surrounding the choice of abortion? Community by community – in safe spaces designed to promote speaking openly.

The Abortion Conversation Project announced four successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Fall 2014 round of mini-grants. “We had many innovative proposals offering unique ways to extend much-needed conversations about abortion,” noted Terry Sallas Merritt, ACP Board President.

What can shifting the conversation look like?

  1. Whole Woman’s Health will coordinate the painting of a huge mural on the exterior building wall of their clinic recently closed by untenable legislative regulations, reassuring women abortion is legal in Texas.
  2. Family Tree Clinic and the Adoption Option Council of Minnesota will coordinate new connections and understanding in a facilitated day of conversation between the Adoption Community and Reproductive Justice Advocates.
  3. Balance in Mexico will present and distribute testimonies and videos of national celebrities reading aloud stories from women funded by the Voices of MARIA Fund.
  4. Two members of WIN.NYC Pro-Choice Network will distribute blank postcards in print and online venues for people to write, draw, picture their abortion connection story and then the project will showcase the postcards online and in a display for viewing and conversation.

Making Waves: The Fourth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest

waves.png

Judged by representatives of the Abortion Care Network and Split This Rock, with special guest judge this year Katha Pollitt!

Sponsored by the Abortion Care Network and 

More info: Making Waves: The Fourth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest

Deadline: Midnight (EST), January 5, 2015

The Abortion Care Network (ACN), a national organization of independent abortion providers and prochoice supporters, and Split This Rock, a national organization that celebrates poetry that provokes social change, announce our Fourth Annual Abortion Rights Poetry Contest, to be held in conjunction with ACN’s annual conference in March 2015.

We are pleased that our panel of judges this year will include Katha Pollitt, the reknown polemicist, poet and feminist.  She is currently touring the US to promote her new book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights (2014), a defense of abortion as a social good.  She is also the author of numerous collections of essays and poetry, including The Mind-Body Problem (2009).

The experience of people who seek abortion and other reproductive services is as varied as the individuals involved. For some, there is safety, relief, and good medical care. For others, there is doubt, harassment, and stigma. For all, health care takes place in a politicized context in which even the most basic choices about our bodies, sexuality, and childbearing can be scrutinized. Reproductive rights are also linked to a whole host of other social issues, such as economic status and the accessibility of safe, affordable health care.

ACN and Split This Rock welcome the submission of poems on these themes. We will award the following prizes: First ($100), Second ($75) and Third Place ($50), and Honorable Mention. The first-place winner will be invited to read the winning poem at ACN’s annual meeting. The prize-winning poems will be transformed into handcrafted artistic booklets distributed to all meeting attendees and will be published in the ACN’s quarterly newsletter, ACN Notes.  Poems will also be placed onto the Split This Rock website at <www.SplitThisRock.org>.  Poets from any part of the U.S. may submit poems, but we regret that no travel funds will be provided so that the winning poet may read at the meeting.

Read last year’s winning poems here.

Submission Guidelines:

•   Submit up to 3 poems (6 pages maximum) by midnight, January 5, 2015, using Submittable, here:https://splitthisrock.submittable.com/submit/36539.
•   If the form is not accessible to you, please contact us at info@splitthisrock.org.
•   All styles and approaches accepted.
•   Previously published in print is acceptable, but, please, not on the web.
•   Simultaneous submissions accepted. Please inform us at info@splitthisrock.org immediately if the poem has been accepted for publication elsewhere.

Questions?  Contact at: info@splitthisrock.org

Let It Out! Abortion Stigma Busting Video Competition

WHAT: We welcome submissions to Let It Out: Abortion Stigma-Busting Video Competition. Stigma is a key strategy of anti-abortion extremists who want to shame everyone into silence about abortion. This year we have seen the consequences of this stigma—clinic closures, women who can’t find services, and right wing extremists in charge of women’s health. It is urgent that we create cultural pushback against those who would try to stigmatize us. So, we encourage you to “Let It Out”, be it about your own or a loved one’s abortion experience, outrage over current politics, or calling out those who would stigmatize us. Video is a great outlet for your passion!

WHO: Co-sponsored by the Abortion Care Network (ACN)  and the 1 in 3 Campaign, and the Abortion Conversation Project (ACP).  ACN creates communities of support around independent abortion care communities and engages in stigma reduction and resistance. Individual activists, writers, artists, and regular folks are part of this community of support. “1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. These are our stories” is the 1 in 3 mission of using stories for stigma reduction. ACP offers seed grants to grassroots stigma-busting projects.

HOW: Video submissions must be under three minutes and under 100 MB and may be humorous, satirical, activist, or about a first person experience. Very short videos using Vine or Instagram or other smart phone applications will also be eligible for entry. Registration form at this address: http://bit.ly/letitoutvideo or email us atInfo@abortionconversation.com. The “How to Make an Abortion Video” webinar with last year’s winners Katie Gillum and Emily Letts is available to interested people at  http://abortioncarenetwork.org/resources/video-gallery/508-making-an-abortion-video

WOW: A nationally known filmmaker will judge the competition. Winning entries will be awarded a cash prize of $100 for each of three entrants, with matching donations to the Abortion Fund of your choice. (See www.fundabortionnow.org) There will also be three Honorable Mentions awarded without a cash prize. Qualifying videos will be displayed by any of the sponsoring organizations and in other reproductive rights and justice venues, at the discretion of the Abortion Care Network. The Judge’s Choice and Honorable Mention entries will be shown at the Abortion Care Network’s Annual Conference and other related meetings.

WHEN: The deadline is January 22th, 2015. Fee only $5! Each video must be posted on YouTube.com or Vimeo.com or similar public siteand a registration form must be submitted at http://bit.ly/letitoutvideo. A confirmation email will be sent to each entrant upon receipt of form.