Activism is the Highest Form of Negotiation

You can’t negotiate your life if you can’t choose it

What does negotiation have to do with it?

Please see our new Reproductive Justice page. We’ll be contributing ten percent of our fees to our clients’ reproductive justice organization of choice until . . . . forever? Until the United States Supreme Court upholds a woman’s right to choose granted to us in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

This is just the beginning of our efforts on behalf of all American women to retain control of their own bodies with the advice of their physicians without the heavy hand of the government forcing women to take every pregnancy to term whether she wants to or not, whether it will disrupt her family or not, whether it will hurt her health or not, whether she was raped or not, whether she can’t afford another child or not. This is just a first step.

Why Negotiation is the Highest Form of Activism and My Own Abortion Story

Negotiation is not bartering or haggling over price on the Venice Boardwalk or a foreign bazaar. Negotiation is simply a conversation - hopefully a persuasive one - whose purpose is to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. To do that, you need to know what your bargaining partner is really after and, by the by, what YOU are really after as well.

Do you want higher pay only? Why? What do you want to do with it? To spend more time with your family? If that’s so, maybe you could trade something tremendously valuable to you - time - in exchange for - say - less money that you thought you wanted in the first place. If you want to trade money for time, you need to understand what time means your employer.

That’s why negotiation requires listening as much as persuading. It also requires trust in the authenticity of your bargaining partner - in both directions.. So a great negotiator asks a million questions about her bargaining partner’s desires, values, goals, needs, challenges, fears, principles, preferences and priorities. A great negotiator then aligns her interests (desires, values, etc.) with her bargaining partner’s interests and agrees to disagree about matters on which no agreement is possible.

Activism requires the identical skills and commitments.

As activists, we need to understand what is driving our “opponents.” The Public Conversations Project recommends that these conversations take place at the intersection of the warring parties’ uncertainties.

We’re going to talk about abortion here so I’ll use abortion as an example.

I was pregnant once and I have no children. I hadn’t been using birth control because my ex-husband and I had years before given up on getting me pregnant. I thought I was immune. I was pregnant during a period of time when Downs Syndrome is a higher than usual risk, i.e., I was over forty. I’ve been pro-Choice all of my adolescent and adult life. I also understood that the blood test for Downs was 75% predictive between 15 and 20 weeks.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to abort at 20 weeks just because I might give birth to a baby with Downs. It was just too late for me. I wouldn’t stop another woman from doing so, of course, but I couldn’t.

Long story short - single at time time - I aborted at 8 weeks.

That’s where I’d start a conversation to find possible overlap of agreement with an anti-choice woman.

I had uncertainties. Did they?

I have in fact had this conversation with anti-choice women and I have learned their uncertainties, i.e., how early or late they think the government should ban abortion. And whether they’d support an abortion ban in the case of rape or incest. Many of the “pro-life” women I’ve talked to wouldn’t send a physician to jail for 99 years for performing an abortion at any time. And they wouldn’t make it a criminal offense. And they’d approve of a medically induced abortion or the morning after pill. Because it’s not really an all or nothing issue for many people. I might not get to agreement in that method, but I’d get to understanding. And so would she. And the first step in activism is to stop shouting at our adversaries and begin listening to them, sharing stories and values. Because we’ll never convince anyone to follow our path until they understand why we’ve taken it. And they’ll keep fighting until we call a temporary truce to have a civilized conversation.

And that’s why negotiation is the highest level of activism. It may not be your activism, but peace work is mine.

This is the crisis we’ve long feared.

This is a crisis.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the current conservative-learning Supreme Court, that law will be enforceable. Alabama women will be forced to carry a rapist’s child to term. If she seeks and obtains an abortion, her rapist would serve less time for the rape than the doctor would serve for terminating the pregnancy.

And the rapist would have visitation rights.

That’s where we’re at in 2019. It’s not something I can personally let go without protest. I’ve been so agitated by the news on the many States that have been outlawing abortions it is our Constitutional Right to choose, that I was frankly beside myself.

I ranted on twitter and my assistant commented, “activism is the highest form of negotiation.” And of course she was and is right.

What could I do?

This weekend I decided to do one small thing. Donate ten percent of all fees earned by SheNegotiates to the reproductive justice organization of our clients’ choice. Our first donation will be $750. I’m waiting to hear back from my client what her wishes are in regard to the charitable contribution we’ll be making in her name.

It’s a small act of conscience, but the act of a negotiator who was permitted to choose the terms of her own life with the dawning of the Women’s Movement.

For anti-choice women, we’re looking right now for “pro-life” consultants to direct you. Because we assume you won't want to have a donation made to a reproductive rights organization as part of the cost of our services.


We’re here to help women choose their lives according to their own values. If we don’t walk the talk, we’re hypocrites just as we assume (often without justification) that our adversaries are. We think we’re better than that.

If you’d like to discuss this, please do. We’re open to any opinion as long as the discussion is civil.

Go ahead. Have your say.