Caution: Personal Abortion Stories in the Marketplace

Posted March 9, 2016 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: abortion

Tags: , , , ,

Displaying Thurston.jpgACP believes cultural change happens in connection.  Sharing your own abortion experience story can be healing for those who find their voice and for those who hear you and grow stronger.

ThurstonACP is honored to welcome our new Board Member, Karen Thurston and her personal insights about media treatment of the growing trend of people bravely sharing their abortion experiences on-line.  

Be warned, she advises if, among other conditions, editors are “Asking readers to send in a particular kind of abortion narrative to fit a specific frame.”


For decades, stories in the media about abortion have been told by everyone from preachers to politicians, but rarely by those who have actually experienced abortion.

Since 2014, that skewed dynamic has changed. More people are breaking their silence, challenging the stigma, and sharing the complex situations around ending their pregnancies. They are opening up in highly public venues, from Facebook and Twitter, to digital magazines and traditional newspapers.

Ideally, every personal abortion story would be handled with respect in the media, encouraging more people to talk about this common medical procedure. But in reality, some venues will exploit abortion stories to sell subscriptions, advertisements, and political points of view. Story tellers and readers alike should approach every media venue with healthy wariness.

Consider, which since early January has been inviting readers to send in their intimate experiences of abortion.

Personal Stories of Abortion Made Public is part of the digital magazine’s ‘reader engagement’ effort — a business strategy to attract consumers and advertisers in an intensely competitive field crowded with social media platforms, blog sites and news apps.

The editors post prompts pegged to various news events in the Notes section, and readers are encouraged to write in with their opinions and experiences.

 What happens next is hidden from our view. People we know nothing about make undocumented changes to the text, create headlines, and add introductions, all in a bid to attract and keep reader attention.

Here are key questions to ask when reading The Atlantic series, as well as other first-person abortion narratives published in the popular and profit-driven media:

Do the headlines and other editor-created text contain stigmatizing language?  Several of The Atlantic’s abortion narratives are topped with emotionally charged headlines: Blood Was Pouring Down My Face and Down My Throat, screams one. I Got Down to the Basement and Blood Was Everywhere, blares another. Roe v. Wade ‘Unleashed a Beast,’ warns another.

Introductions to the stories prime readers with subjective appraisals of what’s in store. The editors size up the stories for us, characterizing them as gruesome, tragic, heartbreaking, and harrowing. We are told this author is anguished and that author struggles.

At one point, an editor adds her own commentary after a story, introducing the term infanticide and elaborating that the topic is “particularly charged, not least because of the common-sense ‘disgust’ factor.”  She  includes a handy link to a dense, 29-page academic paper titled, Infanticide.

Do the editors hold personal biases about abortion?  The two editors whose names appear with The Atlantic’s reader-generated content, Chris Bodenner and Emma Green, do not state their individual views on abortion. This lack of transparency leaves readers to wonder about their editing decisions.

Some indications of editor bias include:

  • Asking readers to send in a particular kind of abortion narrative to fit a specific frame.  Green, the publication’s managing editor who also writes about religion and culture, did just that after one reader’s abortion entry. Green asks the audience to send in more stories, “particularly ones that show some of the moral ambiguity in these choices.”
  • Offering a negative assessment of the words others use when they talk about their abortions.  That’s what Green did when she launched the abortion story-telling section with a ‘note’ titled The Power of Making Abortion Personal. Her prompt, which focuses on the 113 attorneys who filed briefs about their abortions in the Supreme Court case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, spotlights what she terms the “cognitive dissonance” in the language of the briefs:

“My child” is a way of talking about a person, an entity that can think and has a moral identity. But that’s the opposite of the argument that this brief is making—it’s not a moral issue, these women are saying. It’s a health issue, and a lifestyle issue, and a career issue. The vocabulary seems to fall short of that.

  •  Including stories that are not told by people who have experienced abortion.  The Atlantic editors included a lengthy entry by a man whose narrative is about rejecting abortion, headlined Fathers Have Virtually ZERO Rights.
  •  Expressing a viewpoint about abortion in other published pieces.  For example, last summer, Green wrote this piece headlined, Why are Fewer American Women Getting Abortions? It’s not, she concludes, because women have better access to affordable birth control. It’s because “fewer women feel comfortable getting an abortion.”  

Millennials, she declares, are deeply conflicted about abortion for moral reasons, as their views are shaped by religious faith. And Americans in general, she asserts, “are moving away from embracing abortion, not toward it.”

Also, Green recently wrote this story about a book spotlighting progressives in the anti-abortion movement, and her analysis was featured in this enthusiastic piece at The American Conservative.

How heavy a hand do the editors have in altering the reader-generated stories?  We cannot ask The Atlantic’s reader-authors if or how much their words were changed or rearranged, because their identities are kept anonymous.  We can only consider the high quality of the writing and wonder: Do the editors take liberties to accentuate certain scenarios and heighten emotional impact? Do they embellish, omit, or rearrange any details to shape the stories for maximum attraction?

Also, as gatekeepers, do they exclude any stories that don’t fit a preferred frame?

These are mysteries embedded between the lines of the abortion series in The Atlantic’s Notes section, as well as in other media venues publishing abortion stories.

If you want to share your abortion story with the public, spend time researching the site to help ensure your story will be presented with the respect and dignity it deserves. Also, consider sharing through the many grassroots venues listed on our website.


Karen Thurston is an elementary school teacher’s assistant in Georgia. She has shared her abortion experiences in several public venues, including,,,, and The Abortion Diary Podcast.






Our new website is AMAZING!

Posted June 26, 2015 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: grants for conversation projects


Hi– we have just launched our new website at Abortion Conversation Project .ORG with the beautiful new logos and web design by Heather Ault.

If you are considering a grant application– deadline July 1–the site has all you need to walk you through it, including our recent planning webinar, worksheets, and a list of previous grantees. You can also contact us via the site, or at (If you previously sent a request for information, and did not hear from us, please use one of these emails. The migration of sites may have created some glitches!)

Thanks for your patience and do give us a look!!

What’s in a logo?

Posted May 15, 2015 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: history

Tags: , ,


Heather Ault, ACP Board member and creator of 4000 Years for Choice, designed a new logo for the Abortion Conversatiion Project. Initially she produced over 20 designs for the board to look at and  discuss.

Then attendees at the Abortion Care Network conference voted on their favorites from 4 possibilities. It’s amazing how engaging the process was and how thoughtful people were: “I love the conversation bubbles.” “This one is too cartoony” “Is the topic abortion or ACP?” “I like where they overlap.” “I like the free flowing one…” etc etc. Until finally a version of the logo above was chosen in a squeaker of a contest.

Logo design is not for the faint-hearted, and we are so lucky to have Heather Ault on our team! She tinkered with just the right font, the coolest colors, and different versions of the logo for various uses. Need a logo or design services? Consider Heather Ault!

Next Grant Deadline Announced July 1, 2015

Posted May 15, 2015 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: grants for conversation projects

Tags: ,

Seed Support Grant Application Information

Applications Due July 1 and November 1

The Abortion Conversation Project offers small seed grants to individuals and small groups for innovative projects 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. We are particularly interested in innovative and creative approaches to challenging and eradicating abortion stigma. We also want to encourage projects that engage people on a grassroots level.

The ACP Board is committed to an ongoing, collaborative relationship with our grantees; we respect your project and offer support not often found with other grantors. Our Board has expertise and connections in many areas, so we ask each prospective grant applicant to discuss her/his project with a member of the ACP Board or ACP Grant Subcommittee before submitting an application. Alternatively, we offer a webinar for applicants that will help you plan your project and write a well thought out application. Contact for details or to get in touch with someone who can review your idea/proposal. Information is also posted on our blog,

ACP offers both seed money and support for grantees. Our goal is to connect each grantee with advice about implementation challenges, including fund-raising, extending outreach, dealing with difficult conversations that come up, and developing an evaluation process.

We maximize the reach of stigma-busting culture change by granting ‘seed’ money grants in smaller amounts that allow us to assist more projects. We give priority to new, innovative projects or for new portions of existing projects. Grants are available for direct project costs, including technology, equipment, facility and other material and production expenses. We are willing to provide grant money in some cases for salaries/person hours/honoraria, etc. This is an area best addressed in pre-submission conversation with an ACP Board member. Grants to pay for personnel will be for completed projects and direct costs will be reimbursed with receipts.

The Abortion Conversation Project intends to work with you to amplify awareness of your project in our communications channels. Grantees agree to allow ACP to promote their projects on our website and in other ACP publicity materials and to provide evaluative feedback from their projects. Likewise, grantees agree to acknowledge ACP in all communications about their funded project. Logo and ACP tag line will be sent to all grantees.


All grantees agree to submit a brief 6-month Check-In Report and a Final Report to ACP within 30 days of completion.(The Completion Report Form is available on the ACP website or by contacting Neglecting to submit a Completion Report will result in ineligibility for future grants.

Application Process

Applications are accepted for two annual grant cycles; deadlines are July 1 and November 1, annually. Applicants are asked to complete the ACP Support Grant Application form, after initially speaking with a member of our team to discuss your project and/or viewing a webinar for potential grantees. Applicants will be notified of the decision of the ACP Grant Subcommittee within 30 days. Recipients may not apply for two grants in one twelve-month period.

Please submit all application forms electronically, and make inquiries to

Abortion Conversation Project Seed Support Grant Application Form

Contact Information




Email address

Institution/Organization (if applicable)

Social Media Contact Information

Twitter address

Facebook address


Project Title/Summary (Title or 1-2 sentence description of the project)

Detailed Description of the Project (two paragraphs, up to 500 words)—be sure to address

  • What aspect of abortion stigma do you see your project addressing? (How is it manifested? On what level does this kind of stigma operate? ex: Individual, community, institutions, policies/laws, media? More than one?)
  • What do you envision as the outcome of this project? Specifically what is the goal?
  • Define your intended audience.
  • How will you work to decrease polarities and invite people into abortion conversations?
  • How does the project connect with a community?
  • What relationships do you see coming out of this project?
  • How will you evaluate the effectiveness of your project?
  • If this project will continue, how will it be sustained?
    • What is the plan for continuing the project or taking it to the next level?
    • What does the future for this project look like after ACP funding?
    • What fundraising efforts do you envision?

How does this project support the Mission of the Abortion Conversation Project (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)? (up to 250 words)

Proposed date(s)/timeline of the project:

Estimated budget for the project

  • Please provide details of costs; include source of estimated costs of major items.
  • How much funding have you already secured? Source?
  • What other sources of funding have you sought/are planning to seek?

Amount of grant support requested (up to $2000)

If you do not receive the full amount requested from ACP, how will you adjust your proposal?

How did you learn about this grant opportunity?

Signature:_______________________________________________________ Date:__________________

Reaching out to New Audiences: The Dating Game

Posted April 5, 2015 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: dialogue

Tags: , ,

ACP President, Terry Sallas Merritt, recently did an interview with, a decidedly new audience for the Abortion Conversation Project. Usually, and unfortunately, pro-choice activists are guilty of “talking to ourselves.” A dating site attracts ordinary people, perhaps people who have never really considered the topic of abortion. And yet, these are  folks that may face an unintended pregnancy or who have already had an abortion experience. Remember, 37% of all women will have an abortion before the age of 45. So, introducing the topic on a general interest site is precisely where we need to be.

According to Sallas Merritt, it’s all about taking small steps that stop perpetuating silence and encourage listening and understanding.

“When the conversation comes up and you hear that stigma language, you don’t want to let it hang in the air. You can say ‘For me, I would not assume I could make this important decision for anyone else but myself,’” she said. “This is what being pro-choice is all about, respecting the moral authority and capability of people to make these decisions. I think even if you are not comfortable sharing your story, you can be comfortable sharing the universal idea of respect and dignity.”

Hayley Matthews, the editor in chief of Dating Advice, is responsible for creating diverse and controversial content for the site. Even if you don’t need a date, check out her content.

Visit our website and sign up for our newsletter and please visit our Facebook page.

Innovative Stigma-Busting Abortion Conversations: ACP Awards Four Grants

Posted January 6, 2015 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: grants for conversation projects

Tags: , ,

Favianna Rodriguez liteHow do you shift the conversation surrounding the choice of abortion? Community by community –in safe spaces designed to promote speaking openly. The Abortion Conversation Project (ACP) announced four successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Fall 2014 round of mini-grants. “We had many innovative proposals offering unique ways to extend much-needed conversations about abortion,” noted Terry Sallas Merritt, ACP Board President.

What can shifting the conversation look like? Whole Woman’s Health will coordinate the painting of a huge mural on the exterior building wall of their clinic recently closed by untenable legislative regulations, reassuring women abortion is legal in Texas. Family Tree Clinic and the Adoption Option Council of Minnesota will coordinate new connections and understanding in a facilitated day of conversation between the Adoption Community and Reproductive Justice Advocates. Balance in Mexico will present and distribute testimonies and videos of national celebrities reading aloud stories from women funded by the Voices of MARIA Fund. Two members of WIN.NYC Pro-Choice Network will distribute blank postcards in print and online venues for people to write, draw, picture their abortion connection story and then the project will showcase the postcards online and in a display for viewing and conversation.

ACP’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.” In addition to funding, ACP supports grantees in outreach, fund-raising, evaluation and sustainability or next-steps.

The Abortion Conversation Project was founded in 2000 and spent its early years promoting post abortion emotional health, de-stigmatizing abortion through handouts for parents, partners, and patients themselves, and staging community conversations to have deeper conversations among diverse prochoice audiences. After helping to launch the Abortion Care Network, ACP explored conflict transformation techniques and decided to offer small “seed” grants to engage many more people in its mission.

Read more about the Abortion Conversation Project as well as our Facebook page. Supporters can also receive the ACP e-newsletter here or by clicking on the link on the home page of the website

Let It Out! Abortion Stigma-Busting Video Competition

Posted December 12, 2014 by abortionconversationproject
Categories: abortion


let it out green

Sponsored by the Abortion Care Network, 1 in 3 Campaign and the Abortion Conversation Project

WHAT: We welcome submissions to Let It Out: Abortion Stigma-Busting Video Competition. Stigma is a key strategy of anti-abortion extremists who want to shame everyone into silence about abortion. This year we have seen the consequences of this stigma—clinic closures, women who can’t find services, and right wing extremists in charge of women’s health. It is urgent that we create cultural pushback against those who would try to stigmatize us. So, we encourage you to “Let It Out”, be it about your own or a loved one’s abortion experience, outrage over current politics, or calling out those who would stigmatize us. Video is a great outlet for your passion!

WHO: Co-sponsored by the Abortion Care Network (ACN)  and the 1 in 3 Campaign, and the Abortion Conversation Project (ACP).  ACN creates communities of support around independent abortion care communities and engages in stigma reduction and resistance. Individual activists, writers, artists, and regular folks are part of this community of support. “1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. These are our stories” is the 1 in 3 mission of using stories for stigma reduction. ACP offers seed grants to grassroots stigma-busting projects.

HOW: Video submissions must be under three minutes and under 100 MB and may be humorous, satirical, activist, or about a first person experience. Very short videos using Vine or Instagram or other smart phone applications will also be eligible for entry. Registration form at this address: or email us at The “How to Make an Abortion Video” webinar with last year’s winners Katie Gillum and Emily Letts is available to interested people at

WOW: A nationally known filmmaker will judge the competition. Winning entries will be awarded a cash prize of $100 for each of three entrants, with matching donations to the Abortion Fund of your choice. (See There will also be three Honorable Mentions awarded without a cash prize. Qualifying videos will be displayed by any of the sponsoring organizations and in other reproductive rights and justice venues, at the discretion of the Abortion Care Network. The Judge’s Choice and Honorable Mention entries will be shown at the Abortion Care Network’s Annual Conference and other related meetings.

WHEN: The deadline is January 22th, 2015. Fee only $5! Each video must be posted on or or similar public site and a registration form must be submitted at A confirmation email will be sent to each entrant upon receipt of form.