Fall 2013 Funding Cycle: ACP awards six grants

The Abortion Conversation Project announced six successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Fall 2013 round of mini-grants. “All of the awards focus on amplifying the stories of abortion and the voices of those who have experienced abortion,” noted Peg Johnston of the Abortion Conversation Project Board. The Abortion Conversation Project’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.”

  • Cindy Cooper of Words of Choice has proposed a walking tour of Reproductive Justice in New York City with their award.
  • Another NYC based award went to Project Voice, a website created by Maya Pindyck, that would promote the site and also “talk back” to anti-abortion propaganda on the streets and subways.
  • Another blog about abortion, Abortion Chat will get funding to do outreach to writers to include the complexity of abortion in their writing.
  • Our Bodies, Our Bikes: Women’s Health and Wellness On and Off the Bicycle is an upcoming anthology and will include a chapter on abortion as a result of an honorarium funded by an ACP grant. 
  • Funding was also awarded to Blue Mountain Women’s Clinic in Missoula MT to create local original theatre to tell women’s abortion stories. 

Hard conversations

This is a TedX video by Ash Beckham about being in the closet about something–anything and how to have the hard conversations that open the door. It is about her sexual orientation but as she makes clear it is more about any hard thing you need to say. We have long talked about a “Coming Out” Day for abortion providers and women who have had an abortion (or their loved ones). This seems like a good instruction manual for those hard conversations.

Calling for “Abortion Stigma-Busting Videos”

Really…?! Abortion Stigma Busting Video Competition: Push back against anti-abortion extremism with your video!

The Abortion Care Network is sponsoring the first-ever video competition to show the world how people feel about the current climate of extreme anti-abortion legislation and societal stigma against abortion. “We are looking for all kinds of videos, from personal stories to pro choice activism, from direct calling out of anti-choice legislators to flashmob actions, as long it busts current stigma against abortion,” according to Peg Johnston, coordinator of the event. “Video is an important tool in changing attitudes and giving voice to those who have been silenced.”

Stigma is a key strategy of anti-abortion extremists who want to shame women into silence about abortion. When women feel they can’t speak up for their rights, conservative legislators can pass laws that close clinics and make barriers for women. It is urgent that we create cultural pushback against those who would try to stigmatize us.

The deadline is January 6th, 2014 and click here for more information and registration form. Or visit the ACN website athttp://www.abortioncarenetwork.org/news/video-competition or the Facebood page at www.facebook.com/abortioncarenetwork .  

Videos must be no longer than 3 minutes but very short videos using applications such as Vines or Instagram are also eligible. There are three $200 Judge’s Choice awards and three Honorable Mentions. $100 awards will go to the individual and $100 will go to the winner’s abortion fund of choice. Videos will be shown at Abortion Care Network’s conferences, embedded on related websites, and used for promotional purposes by ACN.

Link didn’t work? Paste this in your browser: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=rrbrm5cab&oeidk=a07e880uqfe81765aa0

The price of silence

David Gunn Jr. has written a painful and poignant account of his father’s estrangement from his family over politics and, more particularly over abortion. Dr. David Gunn was, as you will remember, one of the first casualties of anti abortion violence aimed at doctors. His son chronicles that history so that we can see, tragically, how silence about the divisive issue of abortion strains and breaks relationships. Gunn’s family of origin supposedly did not know he performed abortions until he was killed for it. There is a multiplier effect going on about silence. Silencing was going on not just in Gunn’s family but all the families around them, so there was no chance for normalization, even though, as David tells the family history, they would have chosen abortion  personally in spite of extreme disapproval publicly. Read this account for a detailed look at how silence kills.

Thank you, NASA!

by Peg Johnston, ACP Board Member


This little news item caught my eye today, and I quote it in full:

Leak Ends Spacewalk

NASA aborted a spacewalk at the International Space Station on Tuesday because of a dangerous water leak in an astronaut’s helmet that drenched his eyes, nose and mouth. The leak was so bad that Luca Parmitano, Italy’s first spacewalker, couldn’t hear or speak as the spacewalk came to an abrupt end. He asked his spacewalking partner, Christopher Cassidy, for help getting back in.

You may be wondering what spacewalk accidents have to do with reproductive rights or abortion conversations? I have been noticing that those at NASA are pretty much the only folks who use the word “abort” correctly.

Sometimes when I am counseling patients I say, “Did you ever see Tom Hanks in the movie, Apollo 13? When that tank blows up, he turns to the other guy and says, ‘We have to abort the mission.’ That’s exactly what you are saying.”

Women know when they think the biological mission their body is on—a pregnancy—might not turn out well. They think about their resources, the other people they are responsible for, the other missions they have, like school, child-rearing, career, etc.

Abort means ending something that is threatened, is going wrong, or is ill-advised. A spontaneous abortion (or miscarriage) is when the body recognizes when something is going wrong and it stops it.

 Of course, in the current environment, abortion is made out to be a stigmatizing, shaming word used against women who know what is right for their lives. I think we should say the word in its correct usage much more often. “Let’s abort the war on women” for instance. Here’s a news item I’d like to see:

Sanity Ends War on Women

An uprising of citizens aborted a campaign aimed at restricting women’s health facilities in Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and several other states because of the danger to women’s health and well being. The campaign was so bad that most women’s health care facilities would come to an abrupt end. Clinics asked those partnering with women for help returning to sanity.

Spring 2013 Funding Cycle: ACP awards five grants

The Abortion Conversation Project announced five successful grants totally $4,000 in its second round of mini-grants. “We are interested in supporting small grassroots endeavors that start meaningful conversations about abortion,” states Peg Johnston, board member. The grants are in keeping with ACP’s mission “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.”

Two projects are awarded to doula groups and two are going to international projects for the first time.

  • The Seattle Full Spectrum Doulas were awarded an early grant so they could start Circle of Stories, an abortion support group with a writing and arts component.
  • The Chicago Doula Circle aims to train volunteers to provide support to abortion patients at Stroger Hospital in Cook County. Doulas have traditionally provided lay support to women in childbirth, but in recent years some doula groups have also offered women support through an abortion experience.
  • With their grant, Education for Choice in the UK will offer information on abortion, pregnancy, and sexual  health, using social networks, such as Tumblr.
  • Abortion, According to Mewill collect interviews from fifteen Indian women about how abortion is viewed in their communities, and the complex nature of their choices. Abortion is legal in India, but only 40% of the abortions are safe.
  • Another grant goes to Emerge, a successful post abortion support group, to enable them to document their curriculum and process so that others can replicate its results.

Previous grantees include Plants for Patients, a community production of The Abortion Dialogues in Concord NH, Georgia Reproductive Justice Action Network (GRJAN) outreach and training, Inspire, an online support group. In addition to the mini-grants, the board of the Abortion Conversation Project have offered advice and resources to grassroots groups.

Linda Weber: Abortion is not really about abortion

One of the foremost leaders in transforming conversations about abortion is Linda Weber, author of Life Choices, The Teachings of Abortion. She has given us permission to link to her excellent blog posts. Check it out:

Abortion is a collection of some of the most difficult issues related to human growth and development.
 Life Choices

Abortion isn’t really or only about abortion. It’s about women’s power in life, and learning to take conscious responsibility for life on earth. For most women, there’s nothing wrong and everything right about having an abortion. So, what’s the source of the idea that abortion is terrible and a problem? For complete answers, you’ll have to read my book! But meanwhile, consider doing the following:

1. Speak freely about abortion. Cut through the shame and stigma in any way you can.

2. Support your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to speak out and include abortion in the normal course of daily conversations.

3. Be a good listener if there is someone in your life who is upset about abortion. It’s natural and normal to have feelings.

4. Don’t play into the false division between “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” No one is against life.

Read the rest of things you can do on the Life Choices blog.


by Meg Roberts, ACP Board

Hello, All!

My name is Meg Roberts. I’m a potter, a reproductive justice advocate and I run a nonprofit based in Fargo, ND. I’m one of the most recent additions to the ACP board as well as a past grantee. As a part of the mini-grant review committee, it has been an absolute pleasure to read all of the amazing proposed projects this round.

For my contribution to the ACP blog I’d like to share a bit of my perspective, having been a past grantee, and to encourage other young women to utilize this grant opportunity to lend momentum to new ideas.

Last fall my organization, Plants for Patients (P4P), was awarded a mini grant that allowed us to take our show on the road and work in several communities in Montana.  At its most basic, P4P is about changing our cultural dialogue around abortion at a grassroots level through the gift of a handmade ceramic planter, and a note of support offered to patients after an abortion.

While in Montana, I worked with three communities (Red Lodge, Billings and Livingston), testing the application and adaptability of our program. This was made possible by a visiting artist residency at the Red Lodge Clay Center, where I worked to make planters and where we organized a community planting/note-writing event. Those planters and notes were then disseminated to post-abortion patients at independent abortion provider, Mountain Country Women’s Clinic, in Livingston and at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Billings.

One of the inadvertent lessons learned because of the project: blogging is hard. I have the utmost respect for people who are dedicated to blogging as a lifestyle or career. I blogged throughout my time in Montana to be able to communicate the experience with supporters and the ACP board as well as to document and highlight the notable differences working with new communities.

I definitely underestimated the amount of time and discipline it would require to condense so many experiences, challenges and conversations into a single post. Every couple of days I headed into the coffee roastery in downtown Red Lodge to upload photos, email my receipts for reimbursement to Ruth, the treasurer, and manage the organization’s social media sites.

When I returned from Montana, the ACP board sent me an exit-survey to summarize my time and the outcomes of the project. This really gave me pause to reflect on the conversations and dialogues that developed as well as how I, myself, was an ambassador for safe, healthy, constructive abortion dialogue.

It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating.  I found that as a young woman, fresh out of college, busting into established communities, it was incredibly intimidating to share my thoughts and opinions with strangers, not knowing where their own beliefs or opinions lay. I found myself in these situations throughout my time there, whether it was meeting my new studiomates who had already established friendships, or visiting the clinic in Livingston and hoping they’d accept my proposal to offer plants to their patients, or talking with the residents of Red Lodge when asked ‘What do you do?’

Luckily, support was not hard to find. People seemed more willing to talk about abortion from a pro-voice/pro-compassion ideology after seeing it as an alternative to our cultural pro vs anti discourse. The residents who participated in the planting/note-writing event seemed more confident speaking from their own hearts about abortion – some even shared their own experiences in notes of support to future patients.

I talked to many other artists, including all of my studio mates, about the work I do and our unique position as ceramicists to create meaningful intersections between artistic practice and reproductive health care.  Not all of the conversations were easy, even if they were not combative. I left some feeling unsatisfied, later playing them back in my mind to see how or if I could have said things more effectively or whether I should have allowed myself to engage at all.

I won’t make you read through all of my ramblings, so if you’d like to check out some of those conversations or situations click HERE.

All in all, my experience with ACP mini grants is paramount to where my organization and I am today.  The ACP Board were helpful and supportive along the way, whether through correspondence with me or helping to promote the project. I fully encourage anyone who has an eye on our cultural abortion conversation to apply in the future. I especially encourage other women and men of my generation to use this opportunity to give legs to new ideas, to help re-conceptualize and recreate our social dialogue.  What better way to take risks and be a social change maker than with a warm, welcoming community behind you?

The real conversation

Here is another aspect of silencing: hijacking a story for your own purposes. Right leaning media, or mainstream media eager for the salacious story, have focused on Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who allegedly ran a sub-standard, criminal practice that served mostly poor black women. Erin Grant, of Philadelphia Women’s Center, puts the focus back on the real conversation we should be having: how lack of public funding and excessive abortion restrictions actually contribute to the existence of Gosnell’s.

Read Erin's article on RH Reality Check.

Portman Women: Come out!

by Peg Johnston, ACP Board Member

Conservative Senator Rob Portman (R,OH) just changed his mind about gay marriage because his son came out to him. So, the stand that he, and most right wingers, have taken against civil rights for lgbt individuals has become personal. 

So, let’s take this a step further. How many of the Portman family females have had an abortion? Or helped a friend when they unintentionally became pregnant? Gays and lesbians comprise less than 10% of the population, but 37% of all of reproductive aged women will have an abortion! Surely there are some disclosures that are possible at the next family gathering.

Many abortion rights activists advocate a “coming out” strategy for those who have had an abortion, just as the gay and lesbian movement did, designating October 11th (the anniversary of the first large march on washington) in 1988. That strategy has paid off handsomely, as more and more Americans personally know gays and lesbians and support their wanting to have their unions recognized by society. 70% of millenials in a recent Pew poll support same sex marriage.

Last year I attended a conference on Stigma which suggested that approaches that have worked to de-stigmatize homosexuality and HIV status might be used to lessen the stigma of abortion. There are some important differences though. Women who have had an abortion can usually hide it; it’s not generally part of their identity. Gay people continue to be gay, and HIV positive folks have a chronic condition.

But the idea is a good one. If you feel that someone would think less of you (which is the definition of stigma), then you are not going to be eager to tell those people. But if you were able to tell some folks, it would lessen your sense of stigma, isolation, and shame. And, importantly, it would change those that heard your story. The Rob Portman’s of the world need to hear from women close to them who have considered or chosen an abortion. If the Right hears from those women and men who have been part of an abortion experience, will they be so quick to pass every ridiculous law that’s a barrier to abortion access? If Rob Portman’s son’s coming out is an indication, the answer is “no!” So, Portman women, we know it can be hard to speak up, but we’re counting on you. It’s time for an abortion conversation in your–and every– family!