TED conferences usually have something to do with innovation -- but at a TED event in California this week, the talk itself, not just the topic, is what is making progress. On Friday, the conference will host its first ever TED talk about abortion, despite previous efforts to avoid the issue entirely.
Aspen Baker, founder and executive director of the organization Exhale Pro-Voice, is set to take the stage at the TEDWomen conference, where she is expected to discuss paths to productive political discourse about abortion. Baker's organization does not identify as pro-choice, but rather acts as "an alternative to divisive political rhetoric, and its home is in the grey area between pro-life and pro-choice," according to the website's FAQ.
As Jezebel's Anna Merlan points out, TED explained why the conference had never featured a talk about abortion for a report in The Nation last year, citing the polarization of the issue as an excuse:
In a piece in the Nation last year, Jessica Valenti questioned why there’d never been a TED talk on abortion, with a TED organizer telling her plainly that was because it was “more of a topical issue” that they wouldn’t taken a stance on, “any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill.” (The next day, TED backpedaled wildly, saying Valenti had “misrepresented” their very plain quote — something she disproved with a screenshot of an email exchange between her and TED Content Director Kelly Stoetzel.)
While this all appears to be good progress, Merlan also notes reports that a mother participating in this year's TEDWomen conference was asked to leave because she brought her nursing infant with her to the event. The same woman later reported that a "lounge" for parents and children had been set up at the event, which -- will possibly a little too late -- is also a nice sign of change.