Exhale Pro-Voice Anti-Oppression Policy

Orientation to the Anti-Oppression Policy

By Kayla Faye Hurd, Natalie Croul, Tiffany Williams, Jessie Welter

The purpose of the Exhale Pro-Voice Anti-Oppression Policy, henceforth referred to as “the Policy,” is to detail Exhale Pro-Voice’s ongoing commitments to anti-oppressive practice. In alignment with the stated purpose, the objectives of the Policy are threefold:

  1. To ground ourselves in the history of Exhale Pro-Voice so that we can learn from the past as we move forward in serving all people with abortion experiences.
  2. To facilitate reflection and intention in aligning ourselves with anti-oppressive work.
  3. To detail specific, actionable items for Exhale in our specific anti-oppressive practice.

The flow of the Policy follows the objectives beginning with a detailing of Exhale Pro-Voice’s history, followed by a statement of purpose, and concluding with anti-oppressive practice actions to which we commit.

We define anti-oppression as the continuous and active practice of challenging and removing oppression perpetuated by power inequalities in society — both systemic oppression and its individual expressions. In our anti-oppressive practice, we specifically attend to aspects of Exhale that limit the inclusion of marginalized folx in our organization. 

The Policy is subject to biannual  review to ensure that there is a constant conversation about the role of anti-oppression within Exhale Pro-Voice. Additionally, any conflict (internal or external) regarding the Policy will call for reason to review outside of the regular review schedule. For example, in developing the Policy, we made every effort to consider and capture the experiences of all marginalized persons – and we knew that we would inherently fail at this. Whether we take the approach of listing identities, providing an overarching term (e.g. BIPOC), or doing our best to describe all experiences and needs, it is impossible to capture everything. As this is a living Policy, we welcome feedback and edits on how this aspect of  the Policy may be adjusted and improved.

Statement of Purpose

The most recent in a long line of traumas impacting  the safety and wellbeing of Black and Brown folx has compelled us to look internally at our own philosophies, practices, and priorities. In saying this, we also acknowledge the fact that it has taken these traumas  to call us into the process of taking a more critical look at our organization with a lens that centers the perspectives of folx that are routinely left out of these conversations. At Exhale Pro-Voice, we value and acknowledge that it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to inform, facilitate, or undo the work of the system that has oppressed them. It is the job of the community to collectively support each other in the unlearning of  the socialized behaviors that we have normalized with our passive compliance.  We aim to cultivate a community where we actively acknowledge the needs of our volunteers without asking for undue emotional labor. It is important to continuously and consistently come together in conversation to talk about the ramifications of normalized violence and how it disproportionately affects the lives of those we collaborate with every single day. For that, we commit to a lifelong engagement with this work so that we are able to more accurately and genuinely demonstrate our core values through our actions and words.

While anti-racism is at the forefront of current discussions and is something we are deeply committed to, it is only one  road at the intersection of our discussion about anti-oppression. 

At Exhale Pro-Voice, anti-oppression is defined as the continuous and active practice of challenging and removing structural and operational systems embedded in our organization that limit the inclusion of marginalized folx. We approach our anti-oppressive practice through ongoing reflection on our individual experiences, intersectionalities, open-minded lens, and Non-Violent Communication:

  1. Engage in individual, interpersonal, and group-level (e.g., Exhale Pro-Voice Board of Directors, Textline Co-Coordinators Team, Textline Counselors, etc.) reflection and dialogue via Non-Violent Communication.
  2. Use this reflection and dialogue to identify the structural and operational systems embedded in Exhale Pro-Voice which are limiting the inclusion of marginalized folx.
  3. Realize and acknowledge the disproportionate effects that our current structures and operational systems have on marginalized folx’ abilities to access or be present in the work of Exhale Pro-Voice.
  4. Develop a lifelong approach to anti-oppressive practice at, and within, Exhale Pro-Voice in which we understand that our own liberation is inherently connected to the liberation of those around us.

A Glance At Past Operations at Exhale

The Pro-Voice framework  was coined by Exhale Pro-Voice with the intention of putting people’s stories and humanity at the forefront of the discussion around abortion. However, it failed to acknowledge how the identities of our callers and texters intersected within that framework. In its early iterations, Exhale Pro-Voice was committed to sharing stories from our community only when the individual was ready to go public about their abortion experiences. Looking back at the collection of stories, there is a clear theme of privilege and a lack of identities and experiences of those historically and most disproportionately impacted by the history of obstetric violence. Exhale Pro-Voice acknowledges this blindspot and it’s then lack of priority for fostering a safe space for marginalized communities to share their experiences. We have not held ourselves accountable for silencing the voices and experiences of BIPOC for many years and for that we are deeply apologetic.

Exhale was originally founded by cisgender womxn who lived in the Bay Area thus was founded on a basis of privilege and existed largely a white-dominated space. Since its founding, our volunteer cohorts have continually consisted disproportionately of white cis womxn, not reflecting the community at large of which we serve. As an organization of volunteers we are working to collectively acknowledge the troublesome idea of our privileged group engaging in work we deemed helpful to communities that we aren’t necessarily representative of. 

What Pro-voice means to us now: 

Though the politics around abortion and around bodies is tantamount, Exhale Pro-Voice seeks to create a space where individuals can focus on their feelings, which are often rooted in oppression, around their experience of abortion. At Exhale Pro-Voice, we believe  the act of meeting someone where they are and centering care and compassion on their abortion experiences is an act of justice. Exhale also is committed to listening to individuals who have a wide variety of ideals and political beliefs, who have had abortions, and those who have a personal abortion experience and are seeking support to process their feelings. We as an organization are proud to define Pro-Voice as a means to support and show care towards BIPOC and LGBTQ+ lives and their wellbeing, and a way to condemn the oppression of any marginalized group.  To stay silent on these issues is to maintain a space of privilege that does not encompass our beliefs to the right to dignified healthcare, including abortion, or to the right to have a caring space to speak openly about abortion experiences free from shame and stigma.  We continually  approach our counseling from a non-judgmental framework  and that extends to all texters from all backgrounds. Our textline is not to convince anyone of a political agenda or stance – and prioritizes people’s lived experience of abortion and their feelings (physical, spiritual,  and emotional) after an abortion. Everyone at Exhale Pro-Voice knows, loves, and supports people who have had, or will have, abortions. 

Actionable, Anti-Oppression Items We Commit to

Moving forward, Exhale Pro-Voice commits to proactive growth in our anti-oppression mentality. This means that all current and future volunteers and members of the Exhale Pro-Voice community will be held accountable for acting in accordance with the values and commitments detailed in this document. We strive toward a community that  prioritizes the following four components:

1) Diversifying Perspective and Thought in Collective Spaces 

2) Following the Needs of the Texters 

3) Shifting our Culture to Emphasize Non-Violent Communication 

4) Holding Ourselves Accountable to Our Community

We commit to the following actions in an effort to  cultivate a more inclusive environment and implement an intersectional approach to Pro-Voice conversations:  

Diversifying Perspective and Thought in Collective Spaces 

  • We are looking to expand services and amplify the voices of marginalized folx within and outside of our Exhale Pro-Voice community. More specifically, these folx include but are not limited to, people who identify with the following identities and or communities: trans people AFAB , disabled people/people with disabilities/differently abled people, those previously or currently incarcerated, of African descent, and sex workers.
    • We commit to providing free textline support in an effort to  eliminate barriers to accessing our services.
      • We commit to ensuring this information is broadcasted to all who are in need of this aid and not just those in privileged spaces.
    • We commit to being as transparent as possible with our volunteer applicants about Exhale Pro-Voice’s values and how we continue to improve on our anti-oppressive behaviors as an organization.
    • We commit to being honest with ourselves about the role recruitment plays in shaping our organization.  In our recruitment,  we will employ various tools to strive for a more diverse collective.
      • We will work toward onboarding volunteers and leadership that will help us achieve a better process at reaching out to the communities whose voices we seek to center.
    • We commit to developing and retaining BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ volunteers through establishing clear pathways to communicate their needs and a willingness to adjust our practices and expectations to accommodate for any undue burden. 

Following the Needs of the Texters 

  • We commit to training our peer counselors that the texter is the expert on their story and of their own identities. We affirm the most prevalent voice in our conversations should be the texter’s. 
    • We commit to do our best to support each texter’s  gender identity, racial identity, religious affiliations, or other aspects of their identity and will hold space for texters to provide that directly to us if they wish. 
    • We commit to continuing to update our training resources to be gender inclusive and continuing to do so moving forward.

Shifting our Culture to Emphasize Non-violent Communication 

  • We commit to providing ongoing training opportunities that provide anti-oppression resources. We recognize when to defer to different organizations or resources who may be better equipped to handle the complexities of marginalized individuals’ experiences when available.
    • We commit to implementing non-violent communication training so that the Exhale Pro-Voice community understands the power of words and how to communicate with others without re-traumatizing people.
  • We commit to reviewing our Community Agreements before each cohort-wide meeting for a minimum of 5 minutes to consciously reflect and uphold the commitment we have to our community to facilitate healthy conversations.  

Holding Ourselves Accountable to Our Community

  • We commit to both internal and public accountability as an organization if we are not actively demonstrating our commitment to the values of anti-oppression or the fundamentals of the Pro-Voice framework.
    • We will condemn acts of oppression — for example, the deaths of black bodies at the hands of police.
  • We acknowledge that our cohort of volunteers has a large percentage of white cisgender womxn, thus inherently coming from places of privilege.
    • We will incorporate education on the reproductive justice framework through articles and readings that will be discussed at our monthly meetings and expect/ask our counselors to adopt a growth mindset. They will be encouraged to further educate themselves on issues of access and health disparities among races and socioeconomic groups among other basic public health issues.
  • We commit to applying an intersectional analysis of how we are providing our textline services to non-white people.
    • We will use our Textline Forms, and the Textline Survey given to texters, to help inform our decisions as an organization and how it pertains to anti-oppression.