Pro-voice: talking and listening beyond divisions

At the heart of Aspen Baker’s Pro-Voice book is the idea of nonjudgmental listening to people telling stories about their abortion experiences. It’s a simple concept, really, but a radical one in our society where people are polarized on the abortion issue. Pro-voice is also an idea that has can reach far beyond abortion, into many subjects of our lives.

But let’s start with abortion first. You have to be either pro-choice or pro-life, right? Wrong. Baker presents a third option, one that is not political, not polarizing. It embraces the in-between area, and that can make people feel uncomfortable at times.

I was pro-choice since I was in college. I’ve been pro-voice since the minute I called Exhale’s after-abortion talk line, several years ago. Let me tell you, it’s scary to go on the internet and find an abortion hotline. But I had a little bit of help that reassured me I was going to the right place. I found out about Exhale through a grief counselor I had seen. I don’t think she told me about Exhale directly, but I went from her website to Exhale’s.

My experience calling the after-abortion talkline was great. I seem to remember that the counselor I talked to was male. What can a guy know about abortion experience? (I’m using ‘abortion experience’ here to include people who have been affected by abortion, either in a support capacity, or as another person who was involved but didn’t have the abortion.) Gender is irrelevant when it comes to pro-voice. What is relevant is compassionate listening and ears.

Compassionate reading and eyes are also relevant to pro-voice. At the time I had an abortion, Exhale still had an online community for women to discuss their abortion experiences. I talked with women from all over the country, some of whom were religious, some who weren’t. Some of us were relieved by having an abortion and some had other feelings. We all shared abortion as a commonality and we used that as a place to start talking from a place of respect.

The Spirit Babies ceremony for people who have been affected by pregnancy loss came to be because I took the leap of faith and got up and told my abortion story in public. Because of Exhale, I knew I had to speak up and I found the courage to do so. I owe a lot to Exhale but I am not diminishing my own voice and courage in all this.

Today there are many ways for people to share their abortion stories. You can go through Exhale’s Share Your Story. You could also tell your story on The Abortion Diary . Melissa Madera travels around the US recording people’s stories. She has over one hundred of them on her podcast.

So if you haven’t had an abortion experience, what’s your role in all of this? Listening and reading, holding space for people who are sharing their stories. You could help in an administrative way by organizing and promoting things such as reading groups through the Sea Change Program’s Untold Stories Project.

You can also take the idea of pro-voice out into the world for other subjects. Baker suggests these as some topics we can apply them to: gender and race, climate change, gun-violence, communicating online, and forgiveness and redemption for former criminals and addicts. That’s a pretty far-reaching list and it can be applied to all communities, including the pagan community.

I believe that pro-voice is a way of expressing the idea of radical inclusion. Pro-voice welcomes all people to the table to listen and hear each other with respect. It’s important in order for us to come to this place in order to better understand one another. And when people hear and understand one another, there is less room for divisiveness and more room for embracing each other in spite of our differences.