Welcome to the Abortion Conversation Project

The need for a change in the culture around the issue of abortion is clear. Conflict around abortion has occupied the American political system since before Roe (1973) and unlike other social issues, the court case deciding abortion rights for women, did not de-escalate social conflict.  Instead the political advocacy has become more entrenched, sophisticated and professionalized and the battle is being fought in nearly every state and at the federal level. In this system, the debate over abortion has trumped abortion experience. Women who have abortions, providers of abortion and others who have experience with the issue are often silenced by political advocacy that can only tolerate certain stories or points of view.

We believe that the intense polarization of the “abortion wars” has a profoundly negative affect on women who need abortions, health care workers who provide abortion and the culture overall.  We believe transforming the sociocultural environment (individual attitudes, discourse, media, and personal relationships) is the only way to create a world which affirms and values the decisions and experiences of women, providers and other individuals who are directly involved in or affected by abortion. This transformation requires a reorientation in our discourse, advocacy, and health care system.

We believe that it is possible to challenge entrenched cultural prejudice about abortion and create a more tolerant atmosphere that allows all experiences and values to be heard and respected.


The Board of the Abortion Conversation Project

Kate Cockrill, Board Chair
Peg Johnston, Chair Emeritus
Jeannie Ludlow, Secretary
Teresa Hornsby, Treasurer
Darcy Baxter
Ruth Arick

History: Our Vision and Programs

As we re-envision our programs, we would like to provide you with a bit of history about our organization.

ACP began in 2003 with the following vision:

We recognize the transformative power of pregnancy and all its possibilities. We envision a world in which abortion is affirmed as a moral decision without stigma. We believe that open and honest conversations, in a safe environment, about the experience of abortion will begin to create this world.
The Abortion Conversation Project is committed to eliminating the stigma of abortion by creating new ways and opportunities to talk about abortion honestly and publicly. The real life experiences of providers and women themselves will enable people to understand and appreciate the complex moral decision making surrounding a pregnancy decision.
We pledge open conversations that do not demonize those with differing views, or convince anyone that we are “right”. We realize that decisions about pregnancy bring up issues of life, death, sex, parenthood, and so much more. We want to create safe spaces for women and men to consider what is best for their lives.

Since 2003 we have made great strides in transforming abortion stigma.  Through the development or curricula, conversational aids, websites and sponsored talks we have helped to move the needle on abortion discussion from one which solely focuses on rights to a conversation which is engaged with women’s experiences.  Our aim has been to put tools and language in the hands of providers and allies to challenge the stigma of abortion on both an individual and societal level. We have accomplished this goal through a set of programs focused on three areas: post abortion emotional health, discussion with prochoice allies about abortion, and reaching out to clergy to discuss the abortion experience.

In the first 8 years of its existence, ACP created several initiatives that addressed abortion stigma. With the co-sponsorship of Exhale, we brought together researchers, mental health professionals, clergy, and providers to create an agenda to promote post abortion emotional health, a term that we coined. From this came greater attention to the real needs of women post abortion and to assessing risk factors women may have for poor outcomes. Independent providers were eager to incorporate assessment tools and intervention strategies into their practice and the handout Healthy Coping After an Abortion has become an essential resource for clinic staff and patients. ACP collaborated with the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice to develop a curriculum on reproductive loss for their clergy training program. ACP also distributed the workbook, A Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Resolution After an Abortion for the Pregnancy Options Workbooks, www.pregnancyoptions.info.

Another initiative was the Mom, Dad I’m Pregnant project which resulted in a website www.momdadimpregnant.org. and two handouts, one for parents and one for the young people involved in an unintended pregnancy. To our knowledge, it is the only resource for this particular crisis in family communication. Similarly, we worked with the creators of www.menandabortion.com to create a handout called Especially for Men. All three handouts are being offered to patients in member clinics of the Abortion Care Network and via the internet. They are downloadable in our articles section; for bulk copies contact ACN at http://www.abortioncarenetwork.org.

The Abortion Conversation Project sponsored Abortion Conversations in Texas, Florida, and the Northwest (2005-2007) in an effort to create a space where providers and prochoice allies, including clergy, activists, academics, students, and health professionals, could come together to talk openly and honestly about abortion. We have found that people need to understand each other’s work and perspectives in a tolerant atmosphere where people can ask questions without risk.

The Abortion and Spirituality Working Group brought together clergy and abortion counselors to explore training aids, handouts, and strategies to assist women with spiritual concerns about an abortion experience. We offered several workshops on this topic. We are delighted to report that this initiative has largely been continued by Faith Aloud (www.faithaloud.org), a national “religious and ethical voice for reproductive justice.”

In merging most of our activities and products into the Abortion Care Network, we have consolidated our previous efforts into training abortion providers and distributing our materials. In 2007, we sponsored Krista Jacob, editor of the anthologies, Abortion Without Apology and Abortion Under Attack to speak at the Abortion Care Network conference. We endowed a lecture by Kate Cockrill on stigma at the Abortion Care Network conference in 2010. Ms. Cockrill is a researcher at ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health) at UCLA-Berkeley.

Now in 2011, we are re-envisioning ACP’s programs and structure. We will be maintaining or historical roots and also growing in a new direction. We hope you will continue to visit this blog to hear our next steps.