Throughout most of this month, one thousand 22-inch placards have lined parts the New York City subway system with the" voices" of men and women touched by abortion.
But contrary to what some may believe, the "Abortion Changes You" outreach is not a product of the Christian Right.
It's the brainchild of one woman who wanted to let fellow women and men, family members and friends touched by abortion – either their own or that of someone close to them – know that they are not alone and that healing resources are available.
"We know how to shout about abortion, but we don't know how to have a compassionate conversation," says Michaelene Fredenburg, author of Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One's Abortion Experience.
"It is my hope that in the midst of this volatile political season we might hear something different."
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, approximately 1 out of 3 women in the United States will have had an abortion by age 45. And as the election cycle heats up, so does the political rhetoric surrounding abortion.
"The political language surrounding abortion can pick at tender wounds," says Fredenburg, who had an abortion at the age of 18.
"As a teenager I underwent an abortion believing it was the only practical solution to my unintended pregnancy. Yet I was completely unprepared for the emotional fallout. For years I suffered in silence," recalls Fredenburg. "After ultimately finding peace, I ended my silence in the hope that I could contribute to creating a safe place for people to dialogue about abortion. Abortion Changes You grew out of not only my own experience, but also the many heart wrenching stories that have been shared with me."
Fredenburg says she created the Abortion Changes You outreach as a safe place away from politics, labels and debate to meet the needs of men and women who have shared with her their abortion stories and their frustration with the cultural climate.
"One young man named Zach told me 'I can't talk to those who are liberal because abortion is supposed to be okay. And the people on the Right are scary,'" recalls Fredenburg. "I kept thinking, what is there for people like Zach?"
Beginning in 2007, the campaign produced of 15 "voices" that portrayed how abortion changes women and their partners, grandparents and siblings, as well as the other family members and friends of those involved. Each "voice" was inspired by real, personal abortion experiences and directs people to the Abortion Changes You website, which features interactive content through which visitors can learn how to build a support system, explore a range of emotions, identify unhealthy behaviors, and anonymously share about their experiences through stories, artwork, poetry, and songs.
Since January, the Abortion Changes You site has drawn over 17,000 visitors from around 115 countries – over 14,000 of which came from the United States.
Within the first two weeks of the latest ad campaign in New York, the site has drawn three times more New York visitors than the average monthly figure for that state this year, eclipsing the number of California visitors by threefold where before they were a little more than half..
Noticeably, the New York campaign has also brought in more content contributors, including one man who shared about the abortion his girlfriend got when he was 18. The man, who later married in his 30s, said it wasn't until after his marriage that he thought back to the abortion.
"When our son was born 9 months after we were married, I couldn't help but think about my first son. He would be 20 years old now," he wrote.
Recognizing that the New York City population largely uses mass transit for transportation, Fredenburg hopes the subway ads – which will run until Nov. 9 – will resonate with those who have been touched by abortion – either their own or that of someone close to them.
"Although each person's experience with abortion is unique, a common thread moves through them all – abortion changes you," says Fredenburg. "It is our hope that the space we've created online and in the book will give voice to thoughts deeply buried and allow hurting individuals to connect with healing resources."
Fredenburg's book, Changed: Making Sense of Your Own or A Loved One's Abortion Experience, was released this past spring and shares some of the many stories the author has heard over the years – stories from real people who've been touched by abortion. The book also serves as an invitation to begin the healing process through a grief/loss healing model.
On the Web: