Meet our Board
The Abortion Conversation Project brings a broad range of experiences to talking about abortion. We are a small, but mighty, all volunteer Board with a vast array of expertise. Some of us are abortion providers, some of us have had abortions, and some of us are committed to listening to the stories of those who are involved in abortion through our academic research or work in the community. As we explore how dialogue can help to change the conversation around abortion, we draw on our broad experiences.
Terry Sallas Merritt, ACP Board President and founder of Connections Consulting, has been in abortion care work over 30 years, in counseling, training, administration, multi-site management and over 10 years in provider and organizational consulting. Terry has been an active member, served on Boards and provided services to the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, Abortion Care Network, ACP and many abortion care clinics, focusing on strategic planning, management counseling, transition management, relationship marketing, legislative advocacy and counseling training. She has been a contributor to publications, including co-editor of A Guide to Emotional and Spiritual Resolution After Abortion. Terry's deep belief in the often untapped power of voice and language is her hallmark in persuasive speaking, interactive workshops and as a passionate advocate for innovative pregnancy decision and abortion counseling. She understands that when empowered to tell our own story in our own voice, we can be less vulnerable to the cultural stigma surrounding abortion.
Jeannie Ludlow, PhD, ACP Vice-President, is an Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of Women's Studies at Eastern Illinois University, where she researches the power of language in abortion discourse. In addition to being on the Board of the Abortion Conversation Project, she is a member of the Abortion Care Network, and a former member of the national Foundation Board of NARAL. From 1996-2008, she worked at the Center for Choice, an independently-owned abortion clinic in Ohio. Her publications include "Sometimes it's a Child and a Choice: Toward an Embodied Abortion Praxis" in Feminist Formations and "Love and Goodness: Toward a New Abortion Politics" in Feminist Studies.
Ruth Arick founded Choice Pursuits, a vehicle to help clinics improve care, expand services, and help reduce stigma. She spent 15 years managing abortion and family planning clinics and, since 1990, has been a specialty consultant to abortion providers, pro-choice organizations and companies that offer products and services to these healthcare professionals. Ruth's work within abortion facilities includes: staff and manager training; evaluating and developing new services; troubleshooting; helping to open new clinics; policy and protocol revision; and long-term consulting relationships. As a consultant, she has visited and worked with over 300 abortion facilities in the US, Puerto Rico, Canada and Great Britain. She says: "I'm a board member of the Abortion Conversation Project because it works to reduce the stigma that surrounds abortion, for the women who seek abortion services and the staff who provide that care. ACP is the perfect vehicle to normalize abortion for women who seek abortion care, those who love and support them, and the committed staff members who provide support. I can't imagine a better professional life." Ruth is a recipient of the 2010 David Gunn Lifetime Achievement Award.
Peg Johnston, ACP Board Secretary, has been an abortion provider since 1981, and is the creator of the Pregnancy Options Workbooks. She is the primary author of several handouts developed by the Abortion Conversation Project and now available from the Abortion Care Network. Peg enjoys talking to women — and men — about their abortion experiences and challenging the stigma around abortion. She is also a past president/chair of the Abortion Care Network and the National Coalition of Abortion Providers and is the recipient of the 2011 David Gunn Lifetime Achievement Award.
Heather Ault, MFA is an artist, designer, and activist for abortion rights and reproductive justice. As founder of 4000 Years for Choice, she created a dynamic visual art series devoted to re-visioning the historical and cultural narrative of abortion and contraception along with new messages that empower, inspire, and affirm reproductive and sexual justice. Since the project's launch in 2009, Heather has presented her artwork and research at art exhibitions, national conferences, university campuses, and reproductive health clinics across the country. Heather is a board member of the Abortion Conversation Project and also serves as Social Media Coordinator for the Abortion Care Network. She received the Vision Award from the Abortion Care Network in 2012. She holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design a Master of Fine Arts in New Media and is based in Madison, Wisconsin. View more of Heather's work at www.heatherault.org.
Marcy Bloom, MA is currently doing U.S. advocacy and capacity building for a Mexico-City based organization GIRE - El Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Elegida/The Information Group on Reproductive Choice. GIRE seeks to decriminalize and destigmatize abortion and works toward the expansion of reproductive justice and respectful, safe reproductive health services for all the women of Latin America. She is the recipient of the 2006 William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU of Washington's highest honor. The award is given for outstanding, consistent, and sustained contributions to civil liberties. She has long been a leader in safeguarding the fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Bloom served for 18 years as the Executive Director and guiding force of the Aradia Women's Health Center, Seattle's first nonprofit abortion and gynecological health center and a model for clinics nationwide. Her activism spans the history of the reproductive rights movement. Bloom was on the front lines at a time when reproductive rights were not yet protected, helping women to locate safe providers and personally guiding them to states where abortions were legal and accessible. In the decades that followed, she dedicated herself to making health care and reproductive services available to all women. In addition to her visionary role in shaping Aradia, she stood up to picketing and threats by anti-choice forces, assisted in exam rooms, lobbied the legislature, carried speculums to clinics in Mexico, and sat on the steering committee that oversaw the passage of Initiative 120, Washington's reproductive freedom law.
Mari Schimmer is based in Washington, DC. and has more than eleven years of experience in advocacy and organizing across multiple social movements. “Through my work with URGE and Shift., I’ve connected with young activists and local organization in several underrepresented states, and I am really excited by the possibility of bringing ACP resources to provide support and technical assistance for their work and the work going on in many communities.”
More recently, Mari served as the Program Director for URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, a national organization dedicated to young leaders in the reproductive justice movement. At URGE, Mari managed a national program to identify, train and support young activists in Texas, California, Kansas, Ohio, Alabama, and Georgia while developing a leadership pipeline to connect them to organizations and leaders in their home states. Prior to URGE, Mari worked for a national political consulting firm on issue and electoral campaigns and is an experienced community organizer, recruiter, and grassroots fundraising manager. In addition to her passionate support for abortion access, the elimination of stigma, and reproductive healthcare for all, Mari co-organizes QueeRJ, a quarterly networking event for LGBTQ-identified folks working in the reproductive health, rights and justice movements, and also serves as a volunteer adoption counselor at the Washington Animal Rescue League. A California native, Mari earned dual degrees in Politics and Women's Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz.
Loretta J. Ross was a co-founder and the National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective from 2005-2012, a network founded in 1997 of women of color and allied organizations. She is one of the creators of the term "Reproductive Justice" coined by African American women in 1994 following the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt. She is a nationally-recognized trainer on using the transformative power of Reproductive Justice to build a Human Rights movement that includes everyone.
Ms. Ross is an expert on women’s issues, hate groups, racism and intolerance, human rights, and violence against women. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice issues and how this affects social change and service delivery in all movements. She is a member of the Women's Media Center's Progressive Women's Voices. Ms. Ross was National Co-Director of the April 25, 2004 March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants. As part of a four-decade history in social justice activism, between 1996-2004, she was the Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) in Atlanta, Georgia. Before that, she was the Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network where she led projects researching hate groups, and working against all forms of bigotry with universities, schools, and community groups.
She launched the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s, and led delegations of women of color to many international conferences on women's issues and human rights. She was one of the first African American women to direct a rape crisis center in the 1970s.She is a co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice. She has also written extensively on the history of African American women and reproductive justice activism. Loretta is a rape survivor, was forced to raise a child born of incest, and she is also a survivor of sterilization abuse. She is a model of how to survive and thrive despite the traumas that disproportionately affect low-income women of color. A mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother, Ms. Ross serves as a consultant for Smith College, collecting oral histories of feminists of color for the Sophia Smith Collection which also contains her personal archives. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College.
Emeritus Board Members include
Karen Thurston, MA, a public school educator, writer, is a tireless advocate working to end the silence, shame, and fear around abortion care. Since 2014, she has been sharing her own abortion and stigma story in a range of public venues, including in an essay published in The Sea Change Program’s Untold Stories project. She also wrote and narrated the Sea Change video What Happened When I Talked About My Abortions, which won an ACP award in 2015. Karen has recorded her story on The Abortion Diary Podcast, and was featured in an msnbc.com documentary about the podcast in 2015. She has been interviewed by a variety of on-line news sites, including Mic, Elle, and Refinery29. She took part in the on-line abortion speak out hosted by the Advocates for Youth 1 in 3 Campaign.A former newspaper and freelance writer, Karen holds a Master of Arts in Journalism.
Rev. Darcy Baxter served as Director of Family Ministries at the Starr King Unitarian Universalist Church in Hayward, CA and as the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Organizer for the CA Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Reproductive justice is a core part of her ministry — she continues to volunteer as an after-abortion hotline counselor at Exhale, where she has counseled hundreds of women who have had an abortion. A self-described theology-junkie, she has taught theology at Starr King School for the Ministry and frequently speaks about the intersection of reproductive justice, religion, and spirituality.
Kate Cockrill, MPH is a co-founder of Sea Change and has been a leading researcher conceptualizing and measuring abortion stigma in the US and around the world. From 2006 to 2013, Kate was a researcher and program director at the ANSIRH program at the University of California studying the social and emotional aspects of abortion. In 2014, she and Steph Herold founded The Sea Change Program to expand her multidisciplinary research into programming, evaluation and movement building. She has authored 12 peer-reviewed, scholarly articles and her research on stigma has been profiled in The New York Times, Newsweek, Salon, Slate and RH Reality Check.
Grayson Dempsey has spent over fifteen years working in the reproductive rights and health movement. She is the Founder of Backline, an international nonprofit organization that promotes connection, conversation and support around pregnancy, parenting, abortion and adoption, and has worked as a consultant specializing in pregnancy options training for healthcare professionals and advocates. Grayson has served as a contributor to works such as Mom, Dad, I’m Pregnant, The Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change and Pastoral Counseling for Reproductive Loss. She is the author of the Abortion Diaries Discussion Guide and co-author of Providing Abortion Care: A Professional Toolkit for Nurse-Midwives, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants.
Teresa Hornsby, PhD is a Professor of Religious Studies at Drury University, teaching the biblical studies courses, general religion courses, and some upper level topics for the department (such as The Bible, Sex, and Sexuality, A History of African American Religions in the US, and A History of Anti-Semitism). Her research centers primarily on the topics of sexuality and gender in the Bible.
Krista Jacob is the Editor of Abortion Under Attack: Women on the Challenges Facing Choice and Our Choices, Our Lives: Unapologetic Writings on Abortion. Jacob previously worked as an advocate and counselor for victims of rape and domestic violence.
Meg Roberts is a Fargo-based ceramic social practice artist and reproductive justice advocate whose work focuses on community engagement, stigma, and healing. She founded Plants for Patients in 2012, and was able to expand the program with one of the first grants from ACP and much local community support in Fargo ND. Plants for Patients provides a framework for communities to embrace their neighbors through handmade pottery planters, various plants, and supportive messages to abortion patients.
Victoria Tepe, PhD is an experimental psychologist and neurophysiologist with more than 25 years of experience as an advocate for women's reproductive health and abortion rights. Her work includes a decade of clinic volunteer service and organizing, independent research, course design and teaching about the history and development of the abortion debate, and published editorials and essays on topics such as late-term abortion and the science of fetal pain.
Amy Hagstrom Miller was a large part of the vision and the founding the original ACP. In 2003, she founded Whole Woman's Health, a privately-owned feminist organization, committed to providing holistic care for women in a group of women’s clinics in locations of need in five (5) states. WWH provides comprehensive gynecology services, including abortion care. An Independent Abortion Care Provider, Amy's voice and presence is well-known and her awards numerous. In 2016, we all became inspired and grew to know her and her team better as they fought and won in the Supreme Court in Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt.
Rev. Rebecca Turner was the Executive Director of Faith Aloud. In 2012, she was named one of "13 Religious Women to Watch: Changing the World for Good" by the Center for American Progress. In 2010, she was given the "Person of the Year Award" by the Abortion Care Network, and in 2009, the award for "Outstanding Contributions to Advance Women's Equality" by the Missouri Women's Network. She has been featured in Time Magazine, on PBS “Religion and Ethics Newsweekly,” on CNN “Anderson Cooper 360,” in the documentaries “Beyond the Politics of Life and Choice” and “South Dakota,” and in newspaper and web stories around the United States.
Chrisse France is the Executive Director of Preterm, Ohio’s largest abortion clinic, now an ambulatory surgical center, and a national leader in patient-centered care with a reputation for excellence. For over 40 years, Preterm has been an innovative leader in health care, championing patient-centered care long before the concept entered mainstream medicine, training hundreds of OB/GYN residents, and keeping abortion accessible by providing over $14 million in financial assistance to low-income patients. My Abortion, My Life , Preterm's successful campaign has been included in discussions of abortion stigma work at conferences around the country.
Renee Chelian has been a passionate advocate for advancing and protecting women’s choices regarding pregnancy and birth control. As the owner and founder of Northland Family Planning Centers, three Detroit-area women’s reproductive health centers specializing in abortion and gynecological services, Renee has helped set the national standard for excellence in patient care, compassion and education.
Her career began long before abortion was legalized for the nation. In the early 1970s, Renee assisted a Detroit-based physician who, in addition to his regular practice, flew to New York on weekends where abortion was legal, and provided medical safety, comfort and sometimes shelter to the thousands of women who traveled from many states for abortion care.
In addition, Renee is also an active advocate in preserving and building women’s reproductive and civil rights. Her acknowledgements are many and her voice has been heard loud and clear from the halls of Congress, in the volatile MI Legislature and, what she considers her proudest opportunity, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland. Renee is a founding member of National Abortion Federation, ACP and the Abortion Care Network and is currently president of the Health Center for Women, a non-profit organization committed to providing reproductive health care for non-insured or low income women and RECLAIM a new non-profit advocacy organization.