RJ & Radical Support in Indiana

by Shelly Dodson, Backline Program Director

Shelly Newsletter PicMy journey at Backline started out as an amazing volunteer experience, when I first became a Talkline Advocate in 2007. In the past seven years, I’ve had the honor of talking with hundreds of people from all across the country and the opportunity to train and support more than 50 volunteer Talkline Advocates.

Backline is an organization like no other. We provide a space for people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption, within the totality of their lives and without fear of judgment or bias. You can trust that every time you call or interact with someone from Backline, you will be met with empathy, compassion, understanding and support.

When I talk about the work that we do on the Talkline, I am often asked who the “typical” caller is. I think that it’s a natural question to ask because we so often speak about these experiences in terms of statistics or these “other” people who are not us. But when I paint a picture of a Backline caller, I ask people to think about their mother, best friend, partner, child, co-worker, neighbor or even themselves, because the average caller could be any of us at any given time. We all have the potential to be impacted by experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, adoption, infertility, and pregnancy loss.

When I made the decision to move back to Indiana in 2012, we started talking about Bloomington as the pilot site for the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center. My feelings ranged all over the map – from the heady excitement and elation of finally making this dream a reality to self-doubt about whether or not we would be welcomed with open arms. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with community members, health care providers, faith leaders, and educators about the Center, and the response across the board has been overwhelmingly supportive. People tell me that they are eager to challenge the red state stereotype that too often dogs this state, a stereotype based not on genuine Hoosier values, but on our conservative legislature that does not support all people, all communities, or all families equally.

Folks here are excited to put Indiana on the map for having the first ever All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center. They believe, like Backline does, that this goes beyond prochoice or prolife and comes down to being able to truly meet people where they are with dignity and respect, regardless of their pregnancy and parenting decisions and experiences. As a native Hoosier myself, there is an authenticity that comes in doing this work here that doesn’t typically happen on the coasts or places deemed “progressive.” You are forced to move beyond limiting labels and demonizing the other, because those others are also our loved ones, co-workers, and neighbors.

As in many red states (or any states!), there are also few places like Backline for people to give their time and energy. For our Hoosier Talkline Advocates, Backline has been more than a volunteer opportunity; it has been a place to build much needed community and connect to the reproductive justice movement.  As one of our newest ‘Radvocates’ Rachel said, “I’m so so SO thankful that Backline has expanded to Bloomington and Indiana. Backline has given me the tools to not only be able to listen and help others in their journeys along the entire spectrum of pregnancy experiences, but listen to myself. Through the Backline training process, I’ve found my voice.”

The work that we do is simple yet profound. We listen with empathy and compassion, and without judgment, bias or limitation. This is the power of radical and revolutionary change that Backline facilitates in our work every day on the Talkline, and what we look forward to creating at the All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center.

Backline is still fundraising to launch the very first All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center! Donate at https://www.crowdrise.com/all-optionsprc!

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