Announcement: Exhale Founder Transition

posted May 3, 2017

Seventeen years ago, Aspen Baker cofounded Exhale as a safe space for people to share their personal abortion experiences.

Exhale announces that Aspen Baker will step down as Exhale’s Executive Director this fall.

Since its founding, Aspen - along with staff and board members, talkline counselors, friends and allies - has grown Exhale into a movement that respects the complexity of individual stories and creates space for difficult conversations to be held with empathy.

In her role as Executive Director, Aspen has grown Exhale from a volunteer-run project started with $1,000 to an organization known for its unique point of view, innovative programs, and cultural impact.

Aspen has won numerous awards and accolades for her leadership and she has been featured regularly in the media spreading the message of support and respect for people who experience abortion. In 2015, Aspen wrote the award-winning book, ”Pro-voice: How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight,” and gave the first TED talk on abortion, which has garnered more than 1.5 million views.

“Aspen has taken her personal story and built an organization from the ground up with her vision to listen to women’s stories about abortion. Through Aspen’s leadership, Exhale has grown to a nationally recognized organization that transformed how abortion providers support patients and helped shift the abortion “us vs them” dialogue to one of listening and empowering patients to tell their own stories.”
- Kathy Kneer, President/CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

“Aspen's unwavering effort to replace polarizing conversations about abortion with conversations that come from empathy and compassion has made a critical impact in our field. She pioneered efforts to listen, affirm and lift up the stories of people who have experienced abortion first-hand so that they could be part of a dialogue that often excluded their voices. I know the impact of her Pro-Voice leadership will continue to ripple out into the field as she begins the next part of her new journey.”
- Eveline Shen, Executive Director of Forward Together

"In 2010, when I first stumbled upon Exhale online, I thought: who is this rare voice of sanity in the public abortion conversation? It was Aspen Baker. She held a vision of peace in the face of no agreement. It still blows me away that she created this vision out of nothing, with no evidence to prove that peace could be a possible outcome of the abortion war--and yet, with Aspen, I believe that peace is the only possible outcome. She became the first leader in an abortion movement to recognize my personal story as valid, legitimate, and worth telling, even though such a story had never been told anywhere in mainstream media before. Thanks to this bombass leader and her unflinching commitment to elevating every single experience with abortion, I mustered the courage to write my true story. In the space Aspen created, I found the grace to be myself.  Deepest gratitude to her for the foundation of peace, justice, and inclusivity she laid for me, and, I imagine, for millions of other truth-tellers who will raise their voices for decades to come."  --Kassi Underwood, author of May Cause Love: An Unexpected Journey of Enlightenment After Abortion (HarperCollins)

“Aspen has done a truly remarkable job in leading Exhale from an idea grounded in the lived experiences of women to a powerful organization. She has given thousands of individual women, and the social justice movements that support them, a new “pro-voice” way to engage in the often challenging politics and experiences that surrounds access to abortion. Aspen has made an incredibly valuable contribution to the field, and we owe her a debt of gratitude. She also leaves Exhale in excellent shape for this next phase of work.”
- Margaret Hempel, Director of Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Justice at the Ford Foundation

All of us at Exhale have been working closely with Aspen for some time to support this leadership transition and prepare and position Exhale for success beyond its founder. With the backing of some our most important funders, like the Hewlett Foundation, as well as trusted consultants who we have worked with over the years, Exhale’s board has put into place a thorough succession plan and process.

Aspen says:

It has been an honor and a privilege to work at Exhale for over 17-years. I’ve had this very special job where, everyday, I get the chance to express and act on ideas, to create and build what’s needed, to learn and grow, and to find opportunity and hope despite overwhelming setbacks and challenges.

I’ve loved it.

I’m not the only one: Exhale is filled with board, staff, volunteers, allies and alums whose work makes the pro-voice movement stronger, more resilient and more effective. I’m inspired by all of our powerful leaders practicing pro-voice and growing Exhale’s impact. Exhale’s community is creating the culture that our country - and our world - so desperately needs: one that replaces dogma and ideology with listening and respect.

I am very grateful for all the courageous people I’ve had the chance to work with to make Exhale the special, creative, vibrant, innovative and influential organization it is and I know, will continue to be.

Exhale is prepared and excited for what’s next and the opportunities that come with a new leader. And, we can’t do it without our supporters.

Transitions like this are critical moments for organizations. Our team hopes that we can count on the support and involvement of our community as we seek to celebrate Aspen and honor her legacy, recruit and select a new outstanding leader, and strengthen Exhale’s pro-voice programs.

Over the coming weeks and months, our team will be in touch about our Board’s search for a new Executive Director and how to support Exhale during this time.


I've known and admired Exhale and Aspen for about 15 years and been an Exhale volunteer for the last five years. Aspen, we'll miss your leadership, your personality, and your abilities but we will commit ourselves to sustaining and growing the unique movement and organization you created.

Aspen did a really wonderful job. Exhale has grown enormously thanks to her. She is a wonderful person and I wish her all best.

Best regards,
Jon Evern from

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Exhale is a 501(c)3 organization (EIN/tax ID: 94-3393719)