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Response to PLEA Statement, from the Board of Rehumanize International

Content warning: discussion of suicide.


We, the Board of Rehumanize International, take allegations of abuse very seriously. We also take seriously the mental health and safety of activists, and we are grieved to hear that a former volunteer leader of Rehumanize DMV, Savannah Ackerman, is experiencing a mental health crisis. It pains us especially to hear of her suicidality. We are glad to hear that she is seeking appropriate medical care. At Rehumanize International, we recognize that every single human life has immense value and worth, and we also know that as activists working with matters of life and death, we are at risk of succumbing to despair. We wish Ms. Ackerman all the best and hold no ill will toward her. She submitted her resignation as leader of Rehumanize DMV in September, and we accepted that resignation. She has not served as an official representative of Rehumanize since that time.


We believe it is important to address public claims made about Rehumanize International and, by extension, us as members of the Board of Directors. Significant allegations of sustained and enabled abuse were directed at Rehumanize International staff. Unfortunately, no one at Rehumanize International was contacted by PLEA (Protecting Life Through Ethical Accountability) before these claims were publicized. Since Ms. Ackerman first contacted us with her concerns, we as a board have thoroughly reviewed the documented conversations between her and the Rehumanize team. In our assessment, the staff members’ responses to Ms. Ackerman’s concerns were in no way abusive, and we have not found proof of any of the mistreatment she has claimed.


The nature of this dispute centers on Rehumanize International’s commitment to partner with a diverse range of organizations and individuals to achieve shared goals in the spirit of radical inclusivity. Ms. Ackerman brought concerns to our attention about several different individuals we have partnered with in the past and took particular issue with a session at the 2022 Rehumanize Conference, in which Ms. Ackerman disagreed vehemently with the content from one of the speakers. She expressed that she felt the messaging was damaging to the pro-life cause and could potentially cause abortion-minded women to be more inclined towards abortion. It’s not uncommon for members of the Consistent Life Ethic movement to have disagreements about strategy, and even among the Rehumanize team there is a diversity of opinions on particular tactics or approaches to activism. We, as a board and staff, have opted to exist in this tension with the underlying understanding that we are united in our goal to end aggressive violence. Our team reminded Ms. Ackerman that the Rehumanize Conference serves as a public forum for ideas; not every speaker at our events represents Rehumanize International or even upholds all Consistent Life Ethic tenets. For example, we have invited anti-war speakers who may not agree with us on the subjects of, say, capital punishment or abortion. We have also worked with groups with whom we have shared values but who disagree with us strongly on which tactics are most effective. Every activist likely believes that their preferred form of activism is the most effective, and we encourage a diversity of beliefs and debate on these topics.


Another point of contention for Ms. Ackerman was the assertion that Rehumanize International does not listen to the voices of mothers, and in particular, abortion-minded mothers. As a mother of 6, and a speaker on the subject of choosing life in the context of prenatal ableism at the very conference in question, I (Lauren Pope, Rehumanize Board Member) must again reject this assertion. The Board of Directors is made up of several parents, some of whom, like myself, have faced crisis pregnancy situations themselves. The Rehumanize staff has invited Ms. Ackerman to speak at numerous events to share her voice as a woman who chose life, and we have been grateful for the work that she has done to bring light to this experience. Previously, we also invited Ms. Ackerman to start an initiative or project at Rehumanize DMV to center the voices she feels are underrepresented in Consistent Life Ethic activism. We fully believe her voice and experience as a mother matters. In all of our work, we have tried to be inclusive of all voices connected to the issues we address in our mission.


All of the allegations brought to us have been investigated by the staff and board. Our board has now held three emergency meetings since May 2022 to discuss Ms. Ackerman’s concerns. Rehumanize International strives to listen to all voices and address the concerns raised to us by supporters and chapter members. The staff and board listened to Ms. Ackerman but did not feel that her demands were appropriate. As a board, we must reaffirm that rejecting a proposed course of action does not constitute oppression. Conflict about strategy is not abuse, and disagreement over programming is not dehumanization.


We are immensely concerned about Ms. Ackerman’s well-being, and we have attempted over several months to listen to her and address her frustrations in a private and professional manner. To be clear, Ms. Ackerman was never an employee of Rehumanize International. She served as a volunteer leader for Rehumanize DMV until her resignation in September. Despite everything, we want to thank Ms. Ackerman for the work she has put into defending life and promoting the Consistent Life Ethic. Our entire board and staff wish her the best and deeply hope that she can receive the mental health care she needs.


To reiterate, before this public statement, PLEA made no attempt to contact anyone on the Rehumanize International staff or board to verify these claims. We value transparency and welcome any feedback, and we encourage supporters to reach out to us if they have questions. Our Executive Director can be reached at herb@rehumanizeintl.org, and our President, Beth Fox, can be reached at president@rehumanizeintl.org.


Signed,

The Board of Rehumanize International


Disclaimer: The views presented in the Rehumanize Blog do not necessarily represent the views of all members, contributors, or donors. We exist to present a forum for discussion within the Consistent Life Ethic, to promote discourse and present an opportunity for peer review and dialogue.