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The Politics of Exhale After-Abortion Hotline

Why It's Impossible to Talk About Abortion and Not Be Political

After-abortion counseling hotline Exhale prides itself on treading above the political fray, positioning itself not as pro-life or pro-choice but with its party line "pro-voice." That line is under fire after participating in MTV's No Easy Decision episode — the first of many MTV teen pregnancy specials to address abortion. With more publicly now than ever, its politics are being questioned, yet still it refuses to take sides or admit bias.

Full disclosure, I was an Exhale after-abortion counselor for six months from 2007 to 2008. I admire its goal to provide nonjudgmental support, but that's the same goal of every counselor, psychologist, or everyday good listener. As an organization, Exhale presents itself as neither pro-life or pro-choice, but from the inside it's the most pro-choice group of people I've ever met. In counselor training, we were warned about pro-life zealots calling in to test us and test Exhale's stance on abortion. "Never give your opinion," we were told, "hang up if you have to."

The argument over Exhale's apolitical state has become so loud that it's in the New York Times today. And, honestly, I don't know why it matters. Exhale says people on both sides of the abortion debate want to make the organization political, but maybe Exhale's just perpetuating it with its evasive answers. Because I, like most of its volunteers, wasn't there to advocate for or against abortion, I was there to gain experience in counseling; I was there to put my beliefs aside and be a good listener.

If Exhale truly wants to remove itself from the political debate then it needs to stop responding with "we don't have a stance," and start saying "we put our political views aside." At least that's honest.

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