Archive for the ‘abortion’ category

Caution: Personal Abortion Stories in the Marketplace

March 9, 2016

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.







Let It Out! Abortion Stigma-Busting Video Competition

December 12, 2014

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.

Have you told the story of your abortion?

July 31, 2014

More and more women (and men) are telling their stories. Until recently, those stories were not very accessible but now these stories having the potential to change the stigma of abortion in our culture.

Our grantee, Emily Letts, whose video of her abortion has gone viral, is working with not alone, a site for video storytelling.

Because public sharing of your abortion story can bring positive reactions as well as negative, Renee Bracey Sherman has set up a survey to find out the impact on those who choose to share. If you have experience in telling your story, please help with this survey. More about the Sea Change sponsored survey:

As you may know, I have been sharing my abortion story publicly for several years. This experience has brought great joy, a feeling of empowerment, and connection to other people who have had abortions across the country – especially other storytellers. While this has been wonderful, it also brings harassment, both online and off, threats of violence, and thus has highlighted the missing pieces of support for abortion storytellers in our movement.

To ensure that storytellers are truly supported, I am conducting a survey and interviews with public abortion storytellers to look at what support systems have been working for them, and what we as a movement could do better to ensure their needs are met.

To that end, I am asking you to complete this survey, if you’re a public abortion storyteller, and forward it to any and all people who previously and currently share their abortion story in public forums including: journalism, media, video, workshops and panels, nonprofit advocacy campaigns, lobby visits, and interviews. I want to hear about all the best (and worst) practices so we can crowdsource a list of recommendations on how to best support our public abortion storytellers emotionally, mentally, and physically.

The survey can be found on The Sea Change Program’s website at:

And, you might want to read the guides on Exhale’s site.

Just Start those Abortion Conversations

July 17, 2014

Andrea Grimes, an activist journalist in Texas, was already a hero in our world because she has covered the real story of the legislative assault on women and clinics and the consequences for women.

But now she has gone a step further. She has decided to “come out” or stop avoiding conversations about abortion. She had not wanted to talk to her mother about her work, but when she pushed herself to broach the subject she was delightfully surprised. “I had no idea what she would say, how she would react. I was 30 years old, and I had never really had a conversation with my mom about abortion before….It was just incredible. A conversation I’d been dreading for a decade brought me closer than ever to the most important woman in my life.”

She concludes with, “Which is why those of us who can afford to take the risk must do so—we must talk openly, loudly, and enthusiastically, not just about abortion but about the full spectrum of reproductive health-care decisions that we should all be empowered to make.”

It’s well worth the whole read on RH Reality Check.

And thanks for these stories that RH Reality is so good at publishing.

Spring Grants Announced

May 12, 2014
Emily Letts quote

Emily Letts quote

Abortion Conversation Project Awards Six Grants


The Abortion Conversation Project announced six successful grants totaling $5,000 in its Spring 2014 round of mini-grants. “The awards represent diverse ways to extend necessary conversations about 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.”


Emily Letts, whose video, “This is My Story” has gone viral after winning the Abortion Care Network’s Stigma Busting Video Competition, was awarded a grant to do further videotaping and to enter film festivals. Lori Brown, an architect, whose book Contested Spaces examines the controversy at clinics as a design issue, was awarded a grant for a contest to design a fence outside the Jacksonville abortion clinic, the only remaining clinic in Mississippi.

Megan Smith, who founded the Repeal Hyde Art Project, plans to create a leadership course for young women in the Boston area. Also, the Boston Doula Project received a grant to host a monthly Salon Series to foster dialogue about reproductive experiences, including abortion.

Another grant will help establish Social Workers for Reproductive Justice by creating training materials for social workers. The Peace Foundation in Pakistan, where abortion is legal but is considered a sin by many, has received a grant to buy software to communicate vital abortion information with women in far-flung rural areas.

The Abortion Conversation Project was founded in 2000 and spent its early years defining 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 grants to engage many more people in its mission. The Abortion Conversation Project has a website at and a blog at, as well as a Facebook page. Supporters can also receive an e-newsletter by clicking on the link on the home page of the website.






What in the world is happening in Texas?

March 7, 2014

The Reality of HB2:

Texas Legislators Lock Women Out of Abortion Care


On March 6, 2014, Whole Woman’s Health, the largest independent abortion provider in Texas, is announcing the closure of two comprehensive reproductive health clinics in rural Texas in the aftermath of the passage of Texas House Bill 2. These clinics, located in McAllen and Beaumont, Texas, serve a population that now will have to travel significant distances to get abortion care.

Abortion Restrictions in Texas:

HB2, passed by the Texas legislature in 2013 despite a now-famous filibuster by Sen. Wendy David, is onerous legislation designed to shut down health care clinics that provide abortion care. HB2 requires:

  • Abortion clinics to meet the minimum standards of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) by Sept. 2014;
  • All physicians who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges within a 30 mile radius;
  • Medical abortions (an abortion using FDA-approved medications) have increased restrictions including a ban on providing them past 7 weeks and also requiring women to visit the clinic 4 separate times (24 hours in advance of the abortion for a sonogram. Then for the first and second doses of the drug. Finally, a woman must return within 14 days for a follow-up visit);
  • A ban on abortion after 20 weeks gestation, unless necessary to prevent a substantial permanent impairment of the life or physical health of the woman or in the case of a severe fetal anomaly.[1]

None of these restrictions are medically necessary, based on medical evidence, nor do they increase patient safety. [2]

Texas has prior medically unnecessary restrictions placed on abortion care including:

  • A woman must undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion; the provider must show and describe the image to the woman. The provider must also offer to each woman the option to listen to the heartbeat. If the woman lives within 100 miles of an abortion provider she must obtain the ultrasound at least 24 hours before the abortion.
  • A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided.
  • The parent of a minor must be notified and consent before an abortion is provided.
  • Medicaid coverage is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. [3]


Broader Impact of HB2 on the Availability of Abortion for Texas Women:

The new abortion laws are quickly decimating abortion care facilities in Texas. In 2011 there were 44 facilities offering abortion care, this decreased to 36 in 2013 due to prior restrictions, and now there are 22 as a result of HB2.  With the closing of these two Whole Woman’s Health facilities the number goes down to 20. This number will likely decrease to 6 on September 1, 2014 when the final requirements of the law go into effect. The clinics in McAllen and Beaumont were the final clinics operating in rural Texas. After September, the only remaining clinics will be in the five largest cities – Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio – leaving hundreds and hundreds of miles of Texas without safe abortion care.

Low-income women, women of color and rural women bear the brunt of these harsh laws. Some women will not be able to end their pregnancy safely with the support of medical experts like those at Whole Woman’s Health because they face too many barriers–they won’t have the time off, or the money it takes to travel the long distances.  Some will resort to inducing their own abortion without medical assistance.  A pre-Roe landscape is now emerging in Texas where your ability to ability to receive abortion care is determined primarily by your socioeconomic class and zip code.


About Whole Woman’s Health:

Whole Woman’s Health is a woman owned and woman centered organization committed to providing holistic healthcare for women. Its clinics provide comprehensive gynecology services, including compassionate abortion care. Its philosophy is that each woman must be at the center of her own healthcare decisions, and that treating each woman holistically will better serve women and improve health and happiness in our communities. It has 8 facilities, 6 located in Texas—Austin, Beaumont, Fort Worth, McAllen, two in San Antonio; one in Minneapolis, MN and one in Baltimore, MD.  For more information visit:

Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont clinic profile

Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont purchased the only abortion clinic in Beaumont and was founded in 2004. East Texas has always had a legal and professional provider of safe abortion care since Roe V. Wade in 1973. WWH Beaumont sees approximately 1,200 women annually, and is the only abortion care provider between Houston and New Orleans, a 350 mile distance. Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont is accredited by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the National Abortion Federation, is a member of the Abortion Care Network.

Beaumont is in East Texas and is in a part of the region known as the Golden Triangle along with Port Arthur and Orange, Texas. The majority of residents in the area work in the oil, gas and auto industry and our facility served women in both East Texas and throughout Western Louisiana. Without a provider in Beaumont, the nearest provider is 90 miles away in Houston. The women in the Beaumont community and beyond face many barriers that prohibit them from obtaining the full range of healthcare options. In addition to those facing any woman in Texas seeking an abortion, such as a two visit requirement and waiting period they also must deal with increased transportation costs, procedure costs, childcare costs, and time off from work.

  • Estimated Population in 2012                                                        118,228
  • Reproductive Age Women (15-45)[4]                                              73,812
  • Median Household income                                                               $40,765
  • Persons below poverty line                                                               22.3%

The typical WWH patient is identical to the demographic of Beaumont.

  • Race                                                                                                                   40% African American
  • Marital Status                                                                                             Single
  • Health Insurance                                                                                      None
  • Age                                                                                                                      19-35 years of age




Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen clinic profile

Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen began as a private abortion clinic in 1973, remaining in the same location since Roe v Wade made abortion legal. It was purchased in 2004 by Whole Woman’s Health. McAllen has always been an area in which the women of that community could rely on safe access to abortion care.  Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen is accredited by the National Abortion Federation, members of the Abortion Care Network and in good standing with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

McAllen is the second largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, which has one of the highest rates of poverty, uninsured residents, unemployment as well as low income, not only in Texas, but in the entire United States.

As such, the counties in the RGV have been designated as federally recognized medically underserved counties. The four counties that make up the Rio Grande Valley are located in the southernmost border of South Texas and encompass about 43,000 sq miles.[5] The population is 90% Hispanic.[6] Many of the residents in these counties were born in Mexico and a fifth of the population is not a U.S. citizen.[7] More than 20% speak only Spanish or very little English.[8]

Before the implementation of HB2, there were only 2 providers who provided abortion services in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV). Both have had to discontinue providing abortion services. The next closest clinic is in San Antonio, Texas, (230 miles away). There is currently a clinic in Corpus Christi – 150 miles away – but it is facing closure in September 2014.

  • Estimated Population of the RGV in 2012                                1,288,759
  • Reproductive Age Women (15-45)                                                305,307
  • Median Household income                                                               $28,382
  • Persons below poverty level                                                            37.2%

The typical 1,700 patients Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen sees annually is identical to the demographic of McAllen.

  • Race                                                                                                                   Hispanic %?
  • Marital Status                                                                                             Married
  • Health Insurance                                                                                      None
  • Average age                                                                                                  30 years

[1] HB2, the Special Session and What’s Next. NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Whole Woman’s Health.

[2] Abortion restrictions in context: Literature Review. The Texas Policy Evaluation Project.

[3] State Facts About Abortion: Texas. Guttmacher Institute.

[4] Calculated by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project using the 2010 Census and the 2010 American Communities Survey 5-year file.

[5] David M. Vigness and Mark Odintz. Texas State Historical Association. “RIO GRANDE VALLEY,” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed February 25, 2014.

[6] Internal calculation using the U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2012 American Community Survey

[7] Ibid

[8] IbidImage

Here is the Application for 4.1.14 Deadline

February 10, 2014

Abortion Conversation Project

Support Mini-Grant Application Information

Spring 2014 Due April 1, 2014

See related post below)


Image,The Abortion Conversation Project will consider small grants for 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. For the Spring 2014 grant cycle, we are particularly interested in proposals intended to open communication on an interpersonal level and/or within a community.

The ACP Board is committed to ongoing, collaborative engagement with our grantees; we respect your project and want to give it the best possible support. In that spirit, we encourage each prospective grant applicant to discuss her/his project with a member of the ACP Board or ACP Grant Subcommittee before submitting an application. We also intend to remain connected to grantees and their projects on an on-going basis.

Grants are available for project costs (printing, facility rental, etc.), technological costs (internet access charges, photocopying, etc.) travel expenses (including transportation, lodging, and meals), and other material expenses. Starting in the Fall 2013 cycle we are willing to provide grant money in some cases for salaries/person hours/honoraria, etc. Grants to pay for personnel will be for completed projects and direct costs will be reimbursed with receipts.

Grants are available in amounts up to $2000.00 per project; recipients may not apply for two grants in one twelve-month period; grants must be completed within one year of receipt. We accept applications for collaborative projects. We want to maximize the limited amount of money we have to give, so we will appreciate smaller requests that will allow us to assist more projects. We will give priority to applications for support for new projects or for new portions of existing projects.

Grantees agree to allow ACP to publicize their projects on our website and in other publicity materials for the organization and to provide evaluative feedback from their projects, when appropriate. All grantees agree to submit a Completion Report to ACP no more than one year after receiving their grants. (The Completion Report Form is available on the ACP website.) Neglecting to submit a Completion Report will result in ineligibility for future grants.

Application Process

Applications are accepted for two annual grant cycles; deadlines will be announced on our blog and in relevant media. Applicants are asked to complete the ACP Support Grant Application form, after speaking with a member of our team. Grantees will be notified of the decision of the ACP Grant Subcommittee no later than April 30, 2014, for the Spring cycle. Submit electronically and make inquiries to


Abortion Conversation Project

Support Mini-Grant Application Form


Contact Information




 Email address

 Institution/Organization (if applicable)

 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 as many of the following questions as are relevant to your project: What do you envision as the outcome of this project? How does the project connect with a community? What relationships do you see coming out of this project? How will you work to decrease polarities in abortion conversations?

 How does this project reflect 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)

 How did you learn about this grant opportunity?

 Proposed date(s)/timeline of the project.

 Estimated budget for the project

Please provide details of costs, to the best of your ability.

 Amount of grant support requested (up to $2000)

Please note that grantees are ineligible for awards in two consecutive grant cycles.

 If you get less than the requested amount how will you adjust your project?

 Signature (electronically signed)                                      Date