The post-abortion counseling group Exhale, which was actively involved in the airing of MTV’s 16 & Pregnant “No Easy Decision” abortion special, has come under fire for their choice to work with MTV, with some conservatives calling them as agenda pushing and not neutral whatsoever. Which begs the question: Can a group that works in after-abortion counseling even be neutral? Can …
… a person, for that matter, be in between pro-life and pro-choice?
Aspen Baker, the co-founder of Exhale, says that she dislikes the “black and white world” we live in, and that Exhale is “trying to say there’s something else.” There is something to be said for this; Exhale functions in a world in which people get penalized for changing their mind, or for not being sure where they stand on issues (see John Kerry in 2004, who was repeatedly called a “flip-flopper,” particularly over his stance in the war in Iraq). The staff at Exhale, which has received a huge increase in calls from women asking for guidance, is happy to be helping women, but frustrated by being included in a political agenda. They call themselves “pro-voice.”
Others don’t see it that way. Anti-abortion blogger Jill Stanek believes that, “What Exhale does is allow post-abortive mothers to come in and debrief and get out all their grief and fears and whatever, but then its ultimate purpose is to support abortion. It wasn’t pro-life post-abortive groups that MTV called. It was a group that was decidedly pro-abortion.”
Exhale disagrees: “We’re not pro-choice. We’re very clear about that. Women’s feelings about abortion should not be politicized.” But in an environment where abortion is always politicized, this rhetoric seems useful. For Exhale’s purposes, it’s extremely helpful; they can target and work with lots of different women who might not respond to them if they identified with a side. But in today’s political climate, with abortion rights being attacked at every angle, it seems like we need everyone we can saying what they feel and fighting for it. The executive director of Ohio Right to Life, Michael Gonidakis, told The New York Times that, “This is the best climate for passing pro-life laws in years. We’ve got a pro-life governor and a brand new pro-life speaker. Our government now is pro-life from top to bottom.” There’s no way for abortion to avoid being political, and maybe that’s the problem.