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Well-Being: the Cure for “Recovery”

April 21, 2010

Ask any activist and she’ll tell you that elections matter.  They matter because the winner decides who sits on the Supreme Court, which bills actually become law, which programs get money (and how much).  Reproductive health and rights activists have been on the frontlines of local, state, and national election battles because we know how high the stakes are. Elections matter because the winner gets to make the rules for the rest of us.

Sure, it’s oversimplifying it to say the winner makes the rules. But, it’s not that far off.   The winner gets other things too.  Under the heading of “to the victor go the spoils,” the winner gets a platform to push his ideology on the citizens (with the propaganda cloaked as official action).  You know the type.  It’s the Mayor who stands in front of the press on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and declares “Respect Life Week” in his city.  It’s Governors Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry issuing proclamations declaring April “Abortion Recovery Month.” 

The proclamation is generating plenty of buzz for Pawlenty.  Although he’d like you to believe that this is all about helping women, it’s not.  The only thing (other than pandering and increasing Pawlenty’s profile with far right, anti-choice voters nationwide) Abortion Recovery Month accomplishes is blaming, shaming, and otherwise alienating women. 

Enter Aspen Baker, founder and executive director of Exhale, with a solution that really helps women.  She’s  declared April “Abortion Well-being Month.” Now, that’s more like it. 

Aspen is pro-voice.  To be pro-voice means, essentially, to believe that every woman who has had an abortion deserves support and respect.  And that the range of emotions that accompany abortion must be heard without judgment. 

As I have followed Aspen’s work at Exhale (and met her) she has become one of my s-heroes.  She has founded an organization that I believe in and value.  She has elevated the discourse about abortion. And, she has helped me articulate one of the core beliefs that drove me to this work.  I’ve always felt that there is no single “truth” when it comes to our decisions about relationships, marriage, and family.  I believe that women’s experiences of abortion are as unique as our fingerprints.   Exhale works to give dignity, respect, and support to every woman’s voice.

The language of recovery is, overwhelmingly, the language of sin and regret.  The woman who has had an abortion must repent (publicly and often) and seek comfort and forgiveness from all who know her.  It’s no surprise that Aspen would kick recovery to the curb and put well-being in its place.  The language of well-being is inclusive and empowering.

Over at the Exhale blog, they write:

“What we need – what can speak to every woman who has had an abortion – is a month that brings awareness to our personal experience, our feelings, and our needs for support and respect.  A month free of stigma and judgment. A month that opens the door to honest, caring discussions about abortion in our lives.  A month that celebrates our strength and resilience in difficult times, whether that came before or after our abortions.
 What we need is month that celebrates our ability to be well.  A month that brings us together, across our diverse abortion experiences, with our common need for understanding and wellbeing.  A month that calls on our friends and family to do the right thing and be there when we need them, without judgment and without blame.”

That is worth celebrating.  Be well.

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