United States abortion-rights movement

support for women's right to elective abortion

The United States abortion-rights movement (also known as the pro-choice movement) is a sociopolitical movement in the United States supporting the view that a woman should have the legal right to an elective abortion, meaning the right to terminate her pregnancy, and is part of a broader global abortion-rights movement. The movement consists of a variety of organizations, with no single centralized decision-making body.

Albert Wynn and Gloria Feldt on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to rally for legal abortion on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade
Abortion-rights activists before the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., at the March for Women's Lives in 2004
November 12, 1989 Washington, D.C. abortion rights march


  • Opponents of choice want to return to the time when abortion was illicit and deadly. In the meantime, they do everything possible to keep it shameful, to portray women who have abortions as immoral, inhumane, irresponsible, and frivolous. We must respond with a clear moral defense of abortion. We must remember that it is an act of violence to force an unwilling woman to bear an unwanted child. We must cultivate respect for women as moral actors who make their childbearing decisions based on profound concerns about their own lives and the lives of their families. Women make these decisions within the framework of their own religious beliefs, conscience, and values. We must stress that abortion is a responsible choice for a woman who is both unwilling to continue a pregnancy and unprepared to care for a child.
    Finally, legislators in Congress and in the states are often deluged with postcards and letters from abortion opponents, but they say repeatedly that they do not hear enough from their pro-choice constituents.
  • Lauren Brenzel, campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, said viability has not been a major focus in conversations around ballot measure language in a state that could soon ban the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy if the Florida Supreme Court upholds a previously passed 15-week ban. The campaign recently reached the necessary number of verified signatures to qualify an abortion-rights measure for this year’s ballot that includes a viability clause.
    “Viability is the framework that Florida had used until the legislators started passing abortion bans,” Brenzel said. “What we know is that voters understand this, and we see it as clear and concise language that matches with what the standard was in Florida for a long time.”
  • Parenthood is sacred, and perhaps the greatest responsibility, which is why forcing someone to be a parent against her will and better judgment should be the first definition of insanity in the dictionary. The second definition should be opposing comprehensive sex education because it will entice young people to have sex. Does installing smoke detectors encourage teens to burn the house down? Does insisting they wear seatbelts encourage them to drive 100 mph up the driveway? Numerous studies of abstinence only education find a higher pregnancy rate among teens whose only sex education was abstinence only.
    The policies promoted by the pro-choice movement dramatically reduce the abortion rate here in Illinois, across the U.S. and around the world. The policies promoted by those who call themselves "pro-life" or anti-abortion drive up the abortion rate everywhere. The results are devastating to the women, children and families of our great state. Those who are against abortion for whatever reason shouldn't have one which is why Planned Parenthood has The Cradle adoption agency at its Chicago medical facility. Personal PAC helps elect candidates who believe giving women and families all their choices is good public policy. In our great democracy, personally held religious views should be cherished by all and kept out of our policy making. If you don't believe, re-read the first paragraph and make that plane reservation.
  • Despite the polarizing rhetoric in the public debate, when given the opportunity, a significant number of Americans identify simultaneously as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” For example, 7-in-10 Americans say the term “pro-choice” describes them somewhat (32%) or very (38%) well, and nearly two-thirds of Americans simultaneously say the term “pro-life” describes them somewhat (31%) or very (35%) well.
    This overlapping identity is present in virtually every demographic group. For example, while three-quarters of Millennials identify with the term “pro-choice,” 65% also say “pro-life” describes them at least somewhat well; among seniors, nearly two-thirds identify as both pro-choice (65%) and pro-life (66%). With the exception of white evangelical Protestants, solid majorities of every major religious group say both terms describe them at least somewhat well. Eighty percent of white evangelical Protestants say the term “pro-life” describes them at least somewhat well, but still nearly half (48%) also say the term “pro-choice” describes them at least somewhat well. There is also a high degree of overlap among both women and men, with each gender group closely mirroring the general population.
    Democrats and Republicans lean in expected directions in identifying with these labels—79% of Republicans and 83% of those identifying with the Tea Party say “pro-life” describes them well, and 81% of Democrats say “pro-choice” describes them well. It is notable, however, that a majority (52%) of Republicans and those identifying with the Tea Party (51%) also say the term “pro-choice” describes them at least somewhat well, and a majority (56%) of Democrats also say the term “pro-life” describes them at least somewhat well.
  • While Americans are nearly equally divided in identifying with the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels, they have a clear opinion of which label is more socially acceptable in contemporary society. A majority (53%) of Americans say that it is more socially acceptable to be “pro-choice” in America today, compared to 32% who say it is more socially acceptable to be pro-life. This pattern generally holds true across most demographic subgroups, including Millennials. Majorities of Democrats (55%) and Republicans (53%), liberals (52%) and conservatives (52%), all say that being “pro-choice” is more socially acceptable today. A plurality (49%) of Catholics agree that the “pro-choice” label is more acceptable, but 39% of Catholics—higher than any other religious group—say that the “pro-life” label is more socially acceptable. This difference among Catholics is largely due to the differences between white Catholics, among whom a solid majority (57%) say the “pro-choice” label is more socially acceptable, and Latino Catholics, among whom a solid majority (61%) say the “pro-life” label is more socially acceptable. There are no significant differences in views on this question by region or community type.
    Americans who believe abortion should be legal in all cases are not any more likely than the general public to believe that being “pro-choice” is more socially acceptable (52%). On the other hand, Americans who say abortion should be illegal in all cases are more likely than the general public to say being “pro-life” is more socially acceptable (43%), although approximately the same number say being “pro-choice” is more socially acceptable (45%).
  • Securing Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice
    Democrats are committed to protecting and advancing reproductive health, rights, and justice. We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion. We will repeal the Title X domestic gag rule and restore federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides vital preventive and reproductive health care for millions of people, especially low-income people, and people of color, and LGBTQ+ people, including in underserved areas.
    Democrats oppose and will fight to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights. We will repeal the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom. We condemn acts of violence, harassment, and intimidation of reproductive health providers, patients, and staff. We will address the discrimination and barriers that inhibit meaningful access to reproductive health care services, including those based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, income, disability, geography, and other factors. Democrats oppose restrictions on medication abortion care that are inconsistent with the most recent medical and scientific evidence and that do not protect public health.
  • ”Republicans are going to be the ones who look like extremists," says former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who lost his seat in 2004 after being beaten up on the abortion issue for years. That does not mean, however, that Democrats are rushing to call attention to the Republicans' dilemma. In the upcoming midterm elections, the Democrats don't plan to spend a dime on ads highlighting the abortion issue, according to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the savvy Chicago pol who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He wouldn't spell out the reasons, but a top party staffer (who declined to be quoted out of deference to his bosses) told NEWSWEEK: "These guys are gun-shy because they're used to getting clobbered on the issue."
    • Fineman, Howard; Evan Thomas (2006-03-20). "The GOP's Abortion Anxiety". Newsweek Politics. MSNBC. Archived from the original on June 15, 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-07.
  • "It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be 'pro-choice' slightly to the left, politically," according to the Gallup analysis. "While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction."
  • The most common political labels used to identify proponents and opponents of abortion -- "pro-choice" and "pro-life" -- are roughly equally adopted by the American public. Just under half of Americans, 48%, consider themselves to be "pro-choice" while slightly fewer, 43%, call themselves "pro-life."
  • In an October 16, 1995 article in The New Republic, prominent feminist pro-choicer Naomi Wolf sent tremors through the abortion rights movement when she broke ranks by casting abortion in life and death terms, placing it within the moral context that attaches accordingly, and calling upon her fellow activists to do the same.
    Arguing for a new "pro-choice rhetoric," Wolf appeals for the termination of all euphemism and denial in the hope of securing to the pro-choice movement the essential "ethical core" that it has lacked. She believes it both a necessity and an obligation that there be "an abortion-rights movement willing publicly to mourn the evil - necessary evil though it may be - that is abortion." The movement's refusal to do so, she claims, has sacrificed a mass of political support; but more importantly, it has produced "a series of self-delusions, fibs, and evasions," forcing the men and women who are part of it to run the risk of losing what "can only be called [their] soul." For human beings, "[g]rief and respect are the proper tones for all discussions about choosing to endanger or destroy a manifestation of life."
  • In the early 1970s, most Protestant denominations did not share the Catholic Church’s view of abortion. As we have seen, mainline Protestant groups approved of liberalizing access to abortion; some approved repeal, while others endorsed variants of the “reform” position, advocating regulation on the “therapeutic model.” In this period, conservative evangelical groups did not view abortion as a categorical wrong. Even after Roe, in June 1973, Southern Baptist Convention President Owen Cooper criticized the Supreme Court for decisions liberalizing abortion—and banning capital punishment—and then proceeded to observe that the Southern Baptists would support abortions “where it clearly serves the best interests of society.” His view of abortion was far from absolute, and expressed in secular, not religious, terms.
  • One of the first national calls for a change in abortion law came in 1962 from the American Law Institute (ALI)—a prestigious panel of lawyers, scholars and jurists that develops model statutes on a range of topics—with the publication of its "Model Penal Code on Abortion," which called for abortion to be legal when the pregnant woman's life or health would be at risk if the pregnancy were carried to term, when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or when the fetus had a severe defect.
    In 1967, Colorado became the first state to reform its abortion law based on the ALI recommendation. The new Colorado statute permitted abortions if the pregnant woman's life or physical or mental health were endangered, if the fetus would be born with a severe physical or mental defect, or if the pregnancy had resulted from rape or incest. Other states began to follow suit, and by 1972, 13 states had so-called ALI statutes. Meanwhile, four states repealed their antiabortion laws completely, substituting statutes permitting abortions that were judged to be necessary by a woman and her physician (see map). By 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe, abortion reform legislation had been introduced in all but five states.
  • “The movement is grappling with its value system,” said Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, the Kansas City-based vice president of communications for the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which opposes viability clauses.
    Viability is used by health care providers to describe whether a pregnancy is expected to continue developing normally or whether a fetus might survive outside the uterus. It’s generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks into pregnancy but has shifted downward with medical advances. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes viability language in legislation or regulations.
    Some say it creates an arbitrary dividing line and stigmatizes abortions later in pregnancy, which are exceedingly rare and usually the result of serious complications, such as fetal anomalies, that put the life of the woman or fetus at risk.
  • Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
  • "As Catholics, we are called by our faith to follow our conscience in all matters of moral decision making and respect the right of others to do the same. This includes the right to make decisions about abortion and reproductive healthcare."
  • The mission of the National Abortion Federation is to
    unite, represent, serve, and support abortion providers in delivering patient-centered, evidence-based care.
  • There are many reasons why people choose abortion care—and they are all good reasons.
  • NAF wants to hear about your abortion experience.
    You are not alone—one in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. But too many people never talk about their abortion experiences. Your voice is crucial in the fight to ensure safe, legal, and accessible abortion care.
  • In July, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the EACH Woman Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that would eliminate the harmful and discriminatory Hyde amendment, which bans insurance coverage for abortion services in government-run health-care programs like Medicaid.
    Along with our partners at Daily Kos, CREDO, PFAW, NOW and Planned Parenthood, we gathered more than 170,000 petition signatures in support of the bill and delivered them to Reps. Lee and Bonnie Watson Coleman, another cosponsor of the bill, at their offices on Capitol Hill!
  • Activists believe much of the stigma around self-managed abortion was caused, in part, by a campaigning technique by the pro-choice movement – when abortion activists would hand out small coat hangers, defending the right to abortion by evoking images of dangerous procedures that are no longer the norm.
    “That may have been very necessary or appropriate for the time, but it increased the fear of abortion and added a lot more abstract ideas of danger rather than demystifying what abortion is,” Mayhem says.
  • Pro Faith. Pro Family. Pro Choice.
    The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) is a broad-based, national, interfaith movement that brings the moral force of religion to protect and advance reproductive health, choice, rights and justice through education, prophetic witness, pastoral presence and advocacy.
    RCRC values and promotes religious liberty which upholds the human and constitutional rights of all people to exercise their conscience to make their own reproductive health decisions without shame and stigma. RCRC challenges systems of oppression and seeks to remove the multiple barriers that impede individuals, especially those in marginalized communities, in accessing comprehensive reproductive health care with respect and dignity.
    • Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. "Home".
  • Actions by President Barack Obama and his ad-ministration have been entirely predictable given his total commitment and that of his wife, Michelle, to the anti-life agenda of the abortion lobby. He began by eliminating the Mexico City policy that prohibits taxpayer funding of agencies that promote or perform abortions overseas. He is in the process of rescinding the Leavitt/Bush regulation enforcing protection of the rights of conscience of health care providers and institutions. He has removed the Bush prohibition on the use of federal taxpayer funds for research that involves the killing of human beings at the embryonic stage of development.
  • The pro-choice movement generally teaches that human life becomes a human person at various stages later in gestation. They view a woman's access to a safe and affordable abortion as a fundamental human right.
  • There is little agreement among pro-choicers as to how late in gestation elective abortions should be permitted. For example, some argue that elective abortions should be restricted after fetal viability; some place the time limit at about 26 weeks when then fetal brain’s higher function start re initiated; some would allow pregnancy termination at any time up to childbirth.
    • Religious Tolerance. [www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist1.htm "Current beliefs by various religious and secular groups"].
  • A FEW WEEKS AFTER the Supreme Court heard arguments in the “Frontiero” case, it handed down its decision in “Roe v. Wade”. A seven-justice majority held that a Texas statute banning abortion violated women’s constitutional right to privacy. An all-male Court thereby brought the power of the Constitution to affirm what by then was a passionately sought goal of the women’s movement.
  • The campaign to legalize abortion did not begin as a feminist cause, as is often assumed. The movement to legalize abortion actually dates back to the 1950s. It included a range of viewpoints, from left-liberal to conservative-although it was liberals, eventually joined by feminists who were the mainstays. Until 1967, men dominated the movement, and they continued to play a major part through the “Roe” victory and beyond.
    Lucinda Cisler, who led NOW’s work for legal abortion, acknowledged that feminists entered belatedly a movement that others started: “the abortion issue is oe of the very few issues vital to the women’s movement that well-meaning people outside the movement were dealing with on an organized basis even before the new feminism began to explode.”
  • Initially, physicians, psychiatrists, and family planning professionals sustained the campaign. For fifty years, physicians had seen illegal abortions as a threat to public health. This was one reason why the American Medical Association (AMA), a prime mover of illegalizing abortion in the nineteenth century, did an about-face and came to endorse legalization in 1970. Family planning professionals also reversed their view. In the 1910s and ‘20s birth control advocates kept the abortion issue at arm’s length, counterposing the goal of safe, available contraception to the plague of secret murders of unborn children. But in the late 1950s, a few figures from the Planned Parenthood Federation (PPF), heir to Margaret Sanger’s campaign, broke with the standard line to join with physicians concerned about the devastating effects of illegal abortion. The PPF called for laws allowing “therapeutic” abortions, to be authorized by committees of physicians upon application of a pregnant woman whose life was in danger.
  • Gallup polls suggest support for abortion rights is fading, particularly among young Americans, and that more people now regard themselves as “pro-life” than “pro-choice.” On the other hand…the polls depend on the question. According to the Quinnipiac poll, if you ask Americans whether they agree with the Roe decision, nearly two-thirds say yes.
    This apparent incongruity is thrown into even starker relief in a 2011 PRRI survey, which allowed respondents to identify as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” The results showed that these labels don’t encompass the complexity of Americans’ attitudes toward abortion: 7-in-10 Americans said that “pro-choice” describes them somewhat or very well, while nearly two-thirds said the same of the “pro-life” label. Fully 43% of respondents identified as both “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”
  • Analyzing Americans’ perspectives on abortion inevitably lead to contradictions, and we’re frequently distracted by allegiance to the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” labels. If the polling data shows us anything, it’s that Americans’ complex attitudes toward abortion can’t be answered in one question. Maybe it’s time to stop trying.
  • In Oklahoma, viability has been central to conversations about a potential ballot measure to repeal the state’s abortion ban, said Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women, which provides abortion care. Tong said viability is “not something we want written into the Constitution in Oklahoma.”

"Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power" (2009)


"Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power" by David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2009

  • Raising money for the physical plant was just half the battle for Howard. To overcome the “abortion mill” stigma attached to his name, he needed to recruit a top-flight medical staff. Pouring on the charm as never before, he wined and dined doctors in fields such as podiatry, pediatrics, optometry, and dentistry. Avoiding the slightest hint of the subject of abortion, he laid out an enticing vision for them: they could be in on the ground floor of the largest privately owned black medical institution in the city. Moore witnessed Howard’s methods at many of these meetings. “We could talk your shoes off your feet in a snowstorm,” he comments. “His hands were as soft as cotton and he’ll look you straight in the eye and get a commitment of you then and there. . . . A commitment with a smile. . . . He carried an army of goodwill around him and nobody really could ever say anything bad about him.”
    Throughout the planning process, the great unmentionable issue of abortions always lurked beneath the surface. For the time being, Howard stopped doing them. He knew that an arrest by the ever-watchful Hanrahan would jeopardize everything. But he needed the money. He had another doctor, Arnold Bickham, do abortions offsite and share the profits.
    • p.211
  • Howard knew that he was challenging deeply held black cultural, moral, religious, and political attitudes. While the Chicago Defender and Jet and nationally known politicians such as Shirley Chrisholm increasingly defended legal abortion, many others linked it with sterilization as twin plots to keep the black population small and powerless. Political activist and comedian Dick Gregory declared, for example that his “answer to genocide, quite simply, is eight Black kids and another one on the way.” Even mainstream civil-rights leaders, such as Whitney Young, fretted about the racist implications of abortion. In Chicago, the Nation of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad, was Howard’s most vocal black critic, at least initially. Muhammad Speaks asked ironically, “Friendship for Whom?” and attributed the speedy processing of patients to Howard’s hunger to make money “no matter what.”
    Howard has expected criticism from these quarters, but not from Jessie Jackson. Less than a month after Roe v. Wade, a front-page headline in the Chicago Daily Defender blared, “Jesse Launches War on Abortion.” Jackson promised an “all-out PUSH campaign” and called for the formation of a Right-to-Life Committee. “It’s murder no matter what you call it,” he pronounced. He said that if abortion had been popular in biblical times, Jesus and Moses might never have been born. Jackson did not mention Howard by name; he hardly needed to, especially with statements like this: “We used to look for death from the man in the blue coat and now it comes in a white coat.”
    Jackson’s jeremiad made Howard hopping mad, and he did not try to hide it. He barred the members of PUSH’s finance committee (which he had once chaired) from his house, saying he was “sure that they didn’t want to meet in a murderer’s home and take a murderer’s money.” A columnist for the Chicago Metro News took Howard’s side in the feud. Asking if Jackson had lost “his cotton picking mind,” he branded him as an ingrate who had benefited greatly from Howard’s donations and hospitality. No individual, the columnist asserted, had been more successful in raising “funds for PUSH than Dr. Howard.” Along the same lines, Ethiopia Alfred Bekele complains that Howard had “bailed Jesse Jackson out of every financial problem he had. . . . So, if he disagreed with him, why … . . didn’t he give it back and say that it was bad money? She regards Jackson ass “a very selfish man.” Others are more forgiving. Renault A. Robinson asks, absent having another outlet, what more legitimate way” did Jackson have to get funding?
    • pp.215-216
  • Realizing his strategic miscalculation, Jackson quickly backtracked. He phoned Howard to mend fences. Whatever he said, it worked. The main mystery is why Jackson was caught off guard in the first place. He had long known that Howard made his living from abortions. Jackson temporarily toned down his rhetoric after the reconciliation. Shortly after Howard’s death, however, he published a no-holds-barred antiabortion article in the Right to Life News. Coincident with his run for president in 1984, he shifted into full reverse and adopted an equally strong prochoice position.
    Howard’s dispute with Jackson was a sideshow compared to a run of bad news for the FMC. During March and April, the press highlighted several suspicious deaths and health mishaps. Two women died, allegedly form botched abortions, while four had serious complications. In response to this barrage of negative publicity, Howard countered that the FMC had performed 1,500 legal abortions thus far, more than any other Illinois provider. Given such numbers, he concluded, only six major complications were not unusual. A lack of detailed comparative statistics makes it almost impossible to determine if he was right. What can be said is that the rapid influx of patients put the staff and facilities of the FMC under a tremendous strain. Says Sandra Morgan, the women “would be lined up and the seats would be filled. They would be sitting on the floor.
    Fueled by the bad publicity, cries for more regulation grew louder. Using the FMC as an example, Charles Weigel, the president of the Chicago Medical society, wanted to restrict abortions to hospitals. William J. Scott, the Illinois attorney general, agreed. He said that the Supreme Court had ruled that abortion was between a woman and her doctor, not “between a woman and her plumber.” Of course, this was a misleading statement. Doctors, not laymen, performed the abortions at the FMC. To Howard, the hue and cry was a smokescreen by the medical and political establishment to quash their lower-priced competitors. He had a basis for this belief. An abortion at the FMC cost about fifty dollars less than as hospitals. In a sympathetic article for Jet, executive editor Robert E. Johnson, Howard’s long-time friend, elaborated. He suggested that the complaints from doctors were primarily sour grapes because they “didn’t have the foresight to plan ahead like Dr. Howard in order to cash in on the abortion bonanza.”
    • p.216

“Who We Are” Catholics for Choice


Jamie Manson, “Who We Are”, Catholics for Choice

  • Since 1973, we’ve worked in the United States and across the world to ensure that all people have access to safe and affordable reproductive health care services and to infuse our core values into public policy, community life and Catholic social thinking and teaching. We believe that reproductive freedom is Catholic social justice value. We work to dismantle religiously-based obstructions to abortion care, contraceptive access and comprehensive health care, particularly because these barriers disproportionately affect people of color, the poor and the vulnerable.
  • What we do
    We shape and advance sexual and reproductive ethics that are based on justice, reflect a commitment to a person’s well-being and respect and affirm the capacity of all people to make moral decisions about their lives.
  • What We Believe
    We strive to be an expression of Catholicism as it is lived by ordinary people. We are part of the majority of the faithful in the Catholic church who disagrees with the dictates of the Vatican on matters related to sex, marriage, family life, and motherhood.
    We believe in a world:
    Where all people are trusted to make moral decisions about their lives.
    Where the poor and vulnerable are not disproportionately harmed by ideological battles over reproductive rights.
    Where the decision to start a family is thoughtful and planned.
    Where policymakers and advocates are free to support policies that create a more just and compassionate society.
    Where life-saving health interventions aren’t blocked by sectarian interests.
    Where abortion is safe, legal, and truly accessible, and both contraception and child care are available and affordable.
  • "Even after 50 years, our work at Catholics for Choice is as urgent as ever. When Catholic doctrine is used to deny basic and adequate healthcare to the most vulnerable, the consequences are devastating. Women and other marginalized genders are suffering at the hands of the Catholic hierarchy, the most radical patriarchy in the world, and we have a moral obligation to fight back."

“Gender and Women's Leadership: A Reference Handbook” 2010


“Gender and Women's Leadership: A Reference Handbook” by Karen O'Connor, London: SAGE Publications, 2010

  • It is estimated that anywhere from 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal of self-induced abortions were performed in the 1950s and 1960s; although it is difficult to estimate how many women were harmed or killed by these illegal abortions, in 1965 illegal abortions accounted for a “reported” 17% of all deaths due to pregnancy and childbirth (Gold 2003).
    It is important to note, however, that many who were performing illegal abortions were doing so out of a desire to help women and were in fact the first true leaders of the movement. For example, in 1969 a group called the Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation formed in Chicago, Commonly known as “Jane”, the group initially counseled women seeking abortions with the goal of referring them to safe (though illegal) abortion providers (Kaplan, 1995, p. ix). However, motivated by the belief that women should be in control of their bodies and reproductive capacity and believing that “women who cared about abortion should be the ones performing abortion, nonphysician members of Jane began to perform abortions (Kaplan, 1995, p.x). It is estimated that Jane performed more than 11,000 abortions in its 4 years of existence (Kaplan, 1995).
    • p.744
  • Other regional groups also provided abortion referrals, and many of the women involved in referral would later become leaders in the movement. For example, Patricia Maginnis, later a NARAL activist, and Lana Phelan, later a NOW coordinator, founded the Society for Humane Abortion in California; the society provided abortion referrals. Sarah Weddington, who would alter argue Roe v. Wade, served as an attorney for an abortion referral service in Texas (Staggenborg, 1991).
    The first formal call for repeal of abortion laws came from the National Organization for Women, which was founded in 1966 by, among others, the author The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan. Although NOW’s original statement of purpose did not include birth control and abortion, at its first annual convention in 1967, NOW included contraception and abortion in its bill of rights: “The right of women to control their own reproductive lives by removing from the penal codes laws limiting access to contraceptive information and devices and by repealing penal laws governing abortion” (McGlen et al, 2002, p. 269). This stance was controversial even within NOW; members who deemed topics such as abortion too controversial formed a spin-off group, the Women’s Equality Action League, which focused on issues such as gender equality in education.
    Other groups soon followed NOW’s lead: In 1968 the ACLU called for abortion law repeal (McGlen et al., 2002), and in 1969 Planned Parenthood endorsed repeal of abortion laws. In 1969 the First National Conference on Abortion Laws was held in Chicago; it was heavily attended by leaders from the women’s movement, such as Betty Friedan (the first president of NOW). During this conference the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws was founded. NARAL soon selected Le Gidding as its first executive director and would become the leading group in the emerging movement (Staggenborg, 1991).
    • p.744
  • By 1971 14 states had liberalized their abortion laws to allow abortions in some circumstances, and four states had completely repealed their abortion laws (O’Connor, 1996). Although women’s groups and the new abortion rights groups continued to advocate for the repeal of state abortion restrictions, their efforts were largely unsuccessful (McGlen et al., 2002). It soon became clear that just as in the birth control movement, change would have to come from the courts.
    • p.744
  • In the early 1970s individual women’s rights advocates and interest groups began bringing legal challenges to state abortion laws (McGlen et al., 2002). Ultimately, two cases, Roe v. Wade and its companion case Doe v. Bolton, changed the abortion rights landscape.
    Roe, a challenge to a Texas law that criminalized abortion except when the woman’s life was in danger, was brought by two recent law school graduates, Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, on behalf of “Jane Roe” and all other “similarly situated” women. Margie Pitts Hames brought the Doe cse, a challenge to a Georgia abortion law. Weddington, who was only 26 years old at the time she argued Roe, and Hames would both later serve as NARAL presidents (O,Connor, 1996, p. 51).
    Roe and Doe marked an important coordination of women’s rights groups, with groups such as NOW, the American Association of University Women, and Planned Parenthood filing amicus briefs in support of Roe and Doe (McGlen et al., 2002; O’Connor 1996). Weddington, Coffee, Hames, and the groups supporting them were successful: In a 7 to 2 decision, the Supreme Court held that the “the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision” (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Following Roe, litigators from groups such as NARAL and the ACLU jointly filed lawsuits to enforce the decision (Staggenborg, 1991).
    • p.744

"Issues and Implications, Abortion Restrictions and the Drive for Mental Health Parity: A Conflict in Values?" (June 1999)


Dailard, Cynthia (June 1999). "Issues and Implications, Abortion Restrictions and the Drive for Mental Health Parity: A Conflict in Values?". The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy. 2 (3). Retrieved October 2, 2015.

  • [A] number of measures have been introduced in recent years—largely by prochoice legislators—that treat women seeking abortions for mental health reasons differently from those with physical health concerns. While these initiatives first grew out of a perceived need among many prochoice legislators for a political alternative to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, they have significant implications within the larger abortion-rights context—and beyond.
  • The debate over the health exception took on a surprising new twist, however, when prochoice legislators began seeking to exclude mental health from the equation in the context of "late" abortions. Searching for "common ground" in the debate over so-called partial-birth abortions, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) drafted the Comprehensive Abortion Ban Act, which would make all abortions after viability illegal unless continuation of the pregnancy would threaten the woman's life or "risk grievous injury to her physical health" (emphasis added). Daschle's proposal, which was offered but rejected in May 1997 as an amendment to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, would have excluded the possibility of a postviability abortion for any mental health condition, no matter how severe. (The mental health exception is also critical because it has been the aegis under which most abortions in cases of severe fetal abnormality have been justified.)
    Just over one year later, in September 1998, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), another consistent supporter of reproductive rights, went a step further. With a bipartisan group of prochoice senators, he introduced the Late-Term Abortion Limitation Act, which incorporates Daschle's proposal, including its distinction between physical and mental health conditions, but adds another requirement—that a second physician, not involved in performing the abortion, be consulted to certify that the reason for the abortion meets the narrow requirements of the bill. Durbin is expected to reintroduce his bill again within the coming months.
  • The willingness of some prochoice members to sacrifice the mental health exception in order to appear "reasonable" in the context of the postviability abortion debate is beginning to have significant repercussions beyond that specific issue, seriously reviving a legislative attack on abortion rights that largely has been dormant for two decades. For example, the Medicaid abortion funding ban (commonly known as the Hyde amendment) has included an exception to the prohibition in cases of life endangerment since it was first enacted in 1976. Taking a predictable turn in the wake of the Daschle initiative, Hyde successfully narrowed his language in 1997 to permit abortions to be funded under Medicaid only when a woman's life is endangered by "a physical disorder, a physical injury, or physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself" (emphasis added). It had not been since the late 1970s, when the Hyde amendment in FY 1978 and FY 1979 also contained an exception for "severe and long-lasting physical health damage" (emphasis added), that the legitimacy of a mental health exception had been seriously debated and rejected.
  • In a recent Legal Times article, Janet Benshoof and Laura Ciolkowski, of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, charge that some prochoice legislators have consciously bought into the antiabortion movement's "devaluation of women's mental health." Whether or not this is true, recent actions beg the question of why providing equitable treatment for people with mental illness is gaining currency in virtually every public policy context except abortion, where it is fast losing ground. Indeed, the voting records of the 29 senators who voted both for the Daschle amendment and on the Mental Health Parity Act highlight this troubling contradiction: 23 of those 29—all of whom were prochoice or had mixed voting records—voted in favor of the Parity Act. In other words, they took the position that in the insurance context, mental health concerns are sufficiently legitimate to warrant equitable treatment with physical health concerns but that mental health concerns can never present a sufficiently grave threat to a woman's health to justify a postviability abortion.

“Roe v. Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Decision that Made Abortion Legal” (2001)


“Roe v. Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmark Supreme Court Decision that Made Abortion Legal” by Marian Faux, New York City: Cooper Square Press, 2001

  • When Coffee and Weddington began working on Roe v. Wade, they did not know anyone else in Dallas or even in Texas who was working on abortion reform. In fact, they had no contact anywhere in the country with other reformers. They did not know about any national groups organized around abortion reform although one, the Association for the Study of Abortion (ASA), had been in existence since 1964. An educational rather a lobbying group, it focused its early attentions mainly on doctors and other professionals whose lives would be affected by reform. Another group, more oriented to the average woman, was in the early stages of organization. The National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL) held its first public organizational meeting in February 1969 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago just as Coffee and Weddington were most immersed in preparing their challenge to the Texas law.
    Grass-roots groups working to pass reform law shad come and gone in several states, most notably Colorado, North Carolina, and California, all of which had passed liberal reform laws in 1969, “liberal” meaning that for the first time abortions could be done preserve a woman’s health as well as her life. A year later, in 1968, Georgia had passed a reform law, and a repeal bill was introduced in New York in December 1969. In only one neighboring state, New Mexico, were reformers actively involved in reform, and New Mexico’s recently passed reform law would go into effect in 1969, shortly before the Dallas reform movement took root.
    • ch.7 p.102
  • Although abortion reform was in the air across the country, Texas was hardly receptive to it. Texans were too chauvinistic and firmly entrenched in their own ways to seek any kind of social change. In a state that had eagerly sought annexation to the United States during the ten years from 1836 to 1846 when it was an independent republic, it was not surprising yo find a large number of citizens who maintained a fierce loyalty to states’ rights-and abortion was viewed from the start as a states’ rights issue. If changes were to be made in the abortion laws, states’ rights advocates argued, they should be made through the legislatures and not the courts-especially not through a federal court that had no business meddling in the states’ affairs. Coupled with this was an equally portentous felling about the emerging women’s rights movement. Even though feminism, which like abortion reform was more an idea that a reality in the late 1960s, had barely made its way to Texas, the mostly male legislators who ruled the Austin statehouse did not like it. No one would catch them catering to any “libber” causes.
    • p.102-103
  • As nearly as any of the participants could recall, abortion reform in Texas began in late fall 1969, when Virginia Whitehill, a [[Planned Parenthood board member, responded to a request from the local Unitarian church for someone to speak to them about abortion.
    At that time the Unitarians were the only Protestant denomination to have taken a strong stance on abortion.
    • p.103
  • Whitehill proved to be an adept public speaker. She had a natural talent for persuading people to her point of view and spurring them on to action, not that the Unitarian women needed much persuasion. While Cofffee had talked to them in relatively abstract terms about the legal action that was needed to overthrow the state’s abortion laws, Whitehill made the issues surrounding abortion personal. She had described how any one of the Unitarian women-or one of their daughters or a sister or a good friend-might desperately want and need to terminate a pregnancy and be unable to do so, except under frightening, unsafe, and humiliating circumstances. She told the churchwomen that while they were among the privileged elite who might be able to arrange for a “legal” abortion, most women, especially poor women who did know how to operate within the system, were unable to terminate a pregnancy even when it occurred under the direst of circumstances, such as rape or incest. It is the personalizing of an issue like abortion that leads to grass-roots activity, and Whitehill managed to make abortion a very personal issue indeed as she talked to the Unitarian women.
    • p.106
  • The abortion liberalization movement had initially started as an attempt to reform restrictive state laws, but as grass-roots and single-issue activist groups began to organize throughout 1969 and 1970, repeal became a hotly debated topic of discussion. The Dallas group, like most others, was divided over the issues. Some who favored reform did so for purely practical reasons, because they believed this was the most they could hope to achieve. They argued that they stood little or no chance of persuading legislators or courts to repeal all the abortion laws, thus leaving abortion totally unregulated and available on request by individual women. They also believed that only with reform could they build a strong,broad base of support to change the laws. They argued that even though most people wanted abortion reform, the majority did not yet favor repeal. The idea was still too new and radical.
    • p.115
  • Another faction that supported reform did so more for philosophical and emotional reasons than for practical concerns. They felt that a woman’s right to abortion had to be balanced against a fetus’s right to survive and that (unless a woman’s life were at risk) after a pregnancy had progressed to a certain stage-many drew the line at three or four months or quickening-the right to abortion should be limited by law. Women were not morally free, they felt, to have abortions under any circumstances at any stage of pregnancy. They feared that total repeal would encourage abortion for what they viewed as frivolous reasons-because a woman wanted to preserve her beauty, feared the rigors or pain of childbirth, felt she could not support a child financially, or wished to attend graduate school or pursue a career. Many thought these were not valid reasons to abort a fetus and believed the state had a right to restrict abortions under these circumstances.
    Perhaps because they had already been studying abortion for several months, most of the women who had organized the Dallas reform group supported repeal. They felt it was the only action that would truly ensure a woman’s abortion right. Repeal represented several things to them. First, it was a guarantee-the only guarantee, they felt-that women could control their own reproduction, that they alone would decide when and under what circumstances they would terminate a pregnancy.
    Second, repeal meant that abortion would no longer be controlled by physicians except to the extent that any other surgery was. In studying the history of abortion, they had discovered the passage of restrictive abortion laws a century ago had subjected abortion to unusual medical controls that occurred with no other surgery. No other prospective survival patient was expected to get several or even one psychiatric opinion or to seek permission from an entire committee prior to undergoing surgery. And certainly no other surgical procedure had a residency or consent requirement. Abortion was subject to these kinds of controls, the women argued, largely because physicians had played such an important role in writing the restrictive state legislation.
    Most important, they felt that repeal was the key to giving women-especially poor women-access to affordable abortions. If repeal were enacted, the women stated, clinic and even paramedics could provide low-cost abortions for poor women. Technology had advanced to the point where abortions could be done safely by trained paramedical personnel. Postoperative complications were very rare. In Japan, Scandinavia, and several Eastern European countries, abortions were routinely done on an outpatient basis. Clinic abortions always were cheaper and involves less red tape than hospital operations. Repeal would also eliminate the degrading and by now despised hospital and psychiatric certification, which was still a practice in most states’ reform laws.
    The discussion rose to an emotional pitch when some of the women who favored reform insisted total repeal would only open the door to late abortions, which many found morally repugnant. Those who supported repeal replied that almost all abortions were done within the first trimester, that only a minuscule number-one-half of one percent-were done after the fourth month. Of those, some were admittedly performed on women mostly teens, who were negligent in responding in the early signs of pregnancy, but the vast majority were done on women who encountered life-threatening medical complications during the course of their pregnancies. Besides, they argued, few women had abortions for frivolous reasons. Most made a responsible and often painful decision to undergo abortion.
    • pp.115-117
  • The repeal faction also built a strong case showing that reform was not working. In many reform states, the number of legal abortions had not increased after reform laws were passed, largely because those laws contained so many restrictions. A woman had to be over a certain age, or had to have lived in a state for a certain number of months, or had to have her husband’s or parents’ consent, in order to qualify for a legal abortion. Women could exercise little discretion regarding their reasons for abortion in states with laws patterned after the ALI-mode law, which permitted abortion only in cases of rape, incest, grave impairment of the woman’s physical or mental health, or gross deformity of the fetus.
    Worst of all, in reform states the illegal abortion rates had not often gone down. In Colorado, for example, fifty legal abortions were done in 1966, the year before the new laws were passed. Ten thousand legal abortions were done in 1967, the year its reform law took effect, but there were still an estimated 8,000 illegal abortions. The situation was similar in California, where 10,000 abortions were done legally after reform and 90,000 illegally. In Maryland, another state that had passed an ALI-type law, in one year an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 illegal abortions took place. Examples like these, uncovered by the Dallas reformers in their research, were enough to indicate that most reform laws were not working. Furthermore, with legality the price of abortions (both legal and illegal_ had risen and now average between $600 and $ 700, thus causing many disillusioned reformers to refer to the reform legislation as “rich ladies’ laws,” In New York City, hospitals were reportedly guaranteeing physicians who agreed to do abortions $2,400 a day.
    • p.117
  • The Dallas Committee immediately began to prepare several mailings, which consisted of their own fliers and materials obtained from ASA. In the beginning, before they obtained ASA reprints, they simply sent out their own fliers, rough, one-sheer leaflets that were typed rather than typeset and cheaply printed on Kraft paper. One, written in the form of a letter, was a poignant plea for support of repeal:
    Eighty percent of therapeutic abortions are performed on middleclass white women who can well afford the hospital charges, the doctors’ fees, and the psychiatric examination establishing their “emotional instability.” The woman possessing some sophistication and education is not defeated by the intricacies of review by doctors’ committees and psychiatric examination (though her abortion is often unreasonably delayed), but the poor woman is most often confounded by the red tape. According to Dr. Keither [sic] Russell, chairman of the California Medical Association’s committee on maternal and child health, “Tis is not a poor woman’s law. That’s one of its main failures to date.” Richard Lamm, Colorado legislator who led the fight for reform, admits, “We had a cruel law. We still have a cruel law”
    In an analogy they would use again and again, the group compared criminal abortion to Prohibition.
    The situation is analogous to the bootleg liquor traffic that flourished during Prohibition at great risk to the consumer and as great profit to the bootlegger. In the case of abortion, the damage is compounded because it is inflicted on two innocent victims, the woman and the unwanted child. If legal, reasonably priced abortions were available, there would be no need for law enforcers to blink at the criminal abortionists because an urgent, desperate needs would be adequately and legitimately met by society. The hypocrisy and discrimination build into our present system would be ended.
    • pp.119-120
  • The Dallas Committee’s early fliers and pamphlets were not so hard-hitting or sophisticated as they would later become. Without any real competition from opposition groups, for example, reformers had not yet become cautious about the language they used to describe abortion. Like most other reformers at this stage of the movement, the Dallas women interchanged the terms :fetus” and “child”; not for another year would they insist on using only the scientifically correct terms “embryo” and “fetus” to describe an unborn young from age one to eight weeks and after eight weeks until the moment of birth respectively. They had not yet begun to use the term “”pro-choice” and still referred to themselves as “pro-abortion,” a term they would later realize was inaccurate and even find repugnant. With a similar disregard for semantics, the Dallas Committee’s early brochures also bore the bold title Abortion by Choice, which was later changed to Motherhood by Choice.
    The literature recalled a time reformers felt existed between the need to reform the abortion laws and the tragedy of unwantned children. In early brochures they plaintively asked: “How long are we going to accept the sentimental mythology that once a child is born, he is automatically loved and cherished?”
    • pp.120-121
  • The literature revealed a tie reformers felt existed between the need to reform the abortion laws and the tragedy of unwanted children. In early brochures they plaintively asked: “How long are we going to accept the sentimental mythology that one a child is born, he is automatically loved and cherished?” The theme of the unwanted child never proved to be particularly persuasive, perhaps because abused children were a far more complicated issue than this reference implied; at any rate, this early theme was soon dropped form the literature.
    Another theme, influential in the early stages of abortion reform but less so later on, was the notion that abortion could be used to solve the population problem. Whitehill and several other women in the Dallas group thought that abortion was a useful tool in controlling population growth, but they firmly believed it should not be used on anything but a voluntary and individual basis. Their view put them at odds both with Planned Parenthood, the leading and most established population control group, which advocated sterilization but not abortion as part of its Third World population control program, and with feminists, who felt that poverty was not necessarily the cause of overpopulation and considered campaigns to sterilize women while denying them access to abortion highly discriminatory.
    • p.121
  • The importance of the presence of the clergy on the podium that night and in abortion reform could not be underestimated in a state like Texas, located in the middle of the Bible belt. In most areas where abortion reform had gained a foothold, the bulk of the opposition could be expected to come from the Roman Catholic church. In Texas, however, the Church was not particularly powerful; most of its members there consisted of poor Hispanics, and the real source (potentially) of religious opposition, were there to be any, lay with the Protestant churches, both fundamental and mainstream. It was a calculated decision on the part of the Dallas Committee to hold their first public event in a church.
    • p.122
  • The Catholic Church’s increased antiabortion activity forced pro-choice people to respond, and unfortunately, after 1970, they devoted as much time to countering the opposition as they did to promoting liberalized laws. A NARAL bulletin sent to all members summarized the situation: “The opposition is a threat because 1) it has substantial funds, 2) it operated within a powerful, influential, and established organization framework with a communications network that can command quick and obedient action, 3) its arguments are built around emotionally loaded words that confuse the uninformed, and 4) its approach encourages a religious polarization damaging to a democratic society.”
    NARAL considered the financing of antiabortion activity by the Church a major cause for alarm. Like most pro-choice groups, NARAL was officially a lobbying group and was not therefore tax-exempt. Like other pro-choice groups, it suffered a rather hand-to-mouth existence and resented the resources of the very rich Catholic church. In addition, the Church’s broad-based ability to raise money would always far exceed anything that could be done by small, single-issue pro-choice groups.
    NARAL encouraged its local chapters to reach out to the many lay Catholics who were still deeply ambivalent about abortion (as well as their Church’s activities to combat its legalization). The organization kept reminding its members that the Church’s campaign was largely the work of the hierarchy and suggested organizing abortion-repeal groups made of lay Catholics. Catholic Women for Abortion Law Repeal had been influential and active in the New York reform campaign. In Pennsylvania a Catholic repeal group left a blank petition in an obstetrician’s office and without any active lobbying managed to round up over two hundred signatures. In Washington, to counter the Catholic nurses’ organization, a group calling itself Catholics for Individual Responsibility Concerning Abortions organized and issued the following statement: “As Roman Catholics we endorse Referendum 20 because we believe it is possible to be against abortion in our personal beliefs and practices and yet support reform of Washington’s archaic abortion laws. . . . We shouldn’t continue to legislate our concepts of morality on others just as we do not wish them to legislate their concepts of morality on us.”
    Protestant churches could also be encouraged to sign petitions to counter the Catholic influence. In answer to the Catholic church’s Abortion Sunday, one Pennsylvania clergyman sent a letter to all Protestant clergy in the state in which he pointed out that “one communion has launched a well-financed and coordinated campaign to preserve the present Pennsylvania law on abortion” and called upon his colleagues to circulate petitions among their congregants in support of a reform law.
    By the end of 1970 the Catholic church had shown that it was willing to go to great lengths to oppose abortion. It proved to be fearless about lobbying legislators and as willing to use threats as persuasion. Its greatest frustration continued to be the court decisions, which were now coming with increased frequency. But if there was no way to prevent them, the Church soon determined that it, too, could use the courts.
    • pp.189-190

"Reproductive Technology, or Reproductive Justice? An Ecofeminist, Environmental Justice Perspective on the Rhetoric of Choice" (2010)


Gaard G (2010). "Reproductive Technology, or Reproductive Justice? An Ecofeminist, Environmental Justice Perspective on the Rhetoric of Choice". Ethics and the Environment. 15 (2): 103–129. doi:10.2979/ete.2010.15.2.103. S2CID 144393726.

  • This essay develops an ecofeminist, environmental justice perspective on the shortcomings of “choice” rhetoric in the politics of women’s reproductive self-determination, specifically around fertility-enhancing technologies. These new reproductive technologies (NRTs) medicalize and thus depoliticize the contemporary phenomenon of decreased fertility in first-world industrialized societies, personalizing and privatizing both the problem and the solution when the root of this phenomenon may be more usefully addressed as a problem of PCBs, POPs, and other toxic by-products of industrialized culture that are degrading our personal and environmental health. The NRTs’ rhetoric of choice is implicitly antifeminist: it blames the victim by attributing rising infertility rates to middle-class women who delay childbearing while struggling to launch careers; it conceals information about adverse health effects and solicits egg donation and gestation services from women disadvantaged by economic status, nation, and age; and it offers no choice at all for the millions of female animals—chicks, cows, turkeys, pigs, and others—whose fertility is regularly manipulated and whose offspring are commodified as products for industrialized animal food production. An intersectional analysis shifts the discourse away from reproductive choice to a framework of ecological, feminist, and reproductive justice.
    • pp.103-104
  • In this essay, I will argue that feminists have lost discursive control over the word “choice”: instead, the term has been commodified and sold back to women as consumers of the new fertility-enhancing technologies. Building on historic and cultural divisions between humans and nature, these technologies separate women from their body’s fertility, treating the uterus as a natural “resource” open to commodification as well as a site for scientific and economic intervention; they separate women from their biological offspring, manipulating and commodifying those offspring as directed through women’s “choice”; and these technologies have significant harmful “side” effects on the physical and mental health of the women who “choose” them, as well as on the infant “products” they create. Most significantly, these new reproductive technologies (NRTs) medicalize and thus depoliticize the contemporary phenomenon of decreased fertility in first-world industrialized societies, personalizing and privatizing both the problem and the solution when the root of this phenomenon may be more usefully addressed as a problem of PCBs, POPs, and other toxic by-products of industrialized culture that are degrading our personal and environmental health. The NRTs’ rhetoric of choice is implicitly antifeminist when it invokes a form of victim-blaming by attributing rising infertility rates to middle-class women who delay childbearing while struggling to launch careers in a working environment constructed to suit the lives of married heterosexual males with stay-at-home wives. And the rhetoric of choice is anthropocentric, offering no choice at all for the millions of female animals—chicks, cows, turkeys, pigs, and others—whose fertility is regularly manipulated and whose offspring are commodified as products for industrialized animal food production. Bringing together the insights offered from a variety of liberatory perspectives—feminism, ecofeminism, environmental justice, reproductive and environmental health—an intersectional analysis can more helpfully shift the discourse away from reproductive choice to a framework of ecological, feminist, and reproductive justice.
    • p.105
  • Women’s choices and capacities to prevent or terminate pregnancy have a history predating both the “official” feminist movement and the fee-for-service high-technologies of western medicine. Through the use of herbs, reeds, spermicides, diaphragms, and other “low-tech” devices, midwives, herbalists, and other women have helped women control their own fertility for centuries (Ehrenreich and English 1978). Although well-known, these methods were largely private, a matter of personal or spiritual networks and family connections, and it took three centuries of witch-burning to eradicate female lay healers and replace them with male, university-trained physicians. In contrast to the contraceptives and abortifacents provided by midwives and herbalists, contraceptive technologies of western medicine have been socially-produced and publicly-administered, and have therefore become the subject of social and legal debate.
    • p.106
  • Strategically, the emphasis on choice and privacy served to split social conservatives, but ultimately backfired against larger feminist goals. As Catharine MacKinnon (1987) explains, “privacy doctrine reaffirms and reinforces what the feminist critique of sexuality criticizes: the public/private split” (93). Rosalind Petchesky (1990) concurs: “What is lost in the language of liberal privacy is the concept of social rights...that the society has a responsibility to ameliorate the conditions that make either abortion or childbearing a hard, painful choice for some women; and that the bearers of this right are not so much isolated individuals as they are members of social groups with distinct needs” (xxv). In sum, there are several short-comings to the framework of privacy and choice, as Marilyn Fried (2005) observes: first, privacy rights undercut demands for public funding of abortion; second, the rhetoric of “choice” appeals only to those who have options, but is meaningless to those who do not, and thus it politically divides women by race and economic class, since these factors circumscribe women’s choices. No wonder that middle-class white women have tended to be the champions of abortion rights, while low income women and women of color have faced numerous restrictions on their fertility under the rhetoric of population/poverty control. As radical feminists (Corea 1985) and ecofeminists (Diamond 1994) have observed, choice rhetoric and the privacy framework together fit into a larger constellation of male-centered liberal perspectives that rely on separation rather than interconnectedness for definitions of selfhood, science (Merchant 1980), and social relations. These views treat nature as a “resource” for human needs rather than a living ecosystem where humans flourish through interdependence; they divide personhood into various bodily parts (i.e., the uterus, ovaries, breasts) which can then be commodified by “choice” and manipulated in concert with Western culture’s control of “nature” as a path to human liberation. Together, these shortcomings made the framework of reproductive choice both marginally effective and vulnerable to appropriation.
    • pp.107-108
  • In sum, when used to legitimate both the older contraceptive technologies as well as the new reproductive technologies, the rhetoric of choice excludes a multitude of women in order to focus on elite women for whom choice is possible. Choice rhetoric privatizes and depoliticizes the decisions surrounding childbearing, leading to conflicts between the individual and society, and real or perceived conflicts between the woman and the embryo she carries. Moreover, the rhetoric of choice provides no foundation for critiques of such practices as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), techniques now producing “designer” babies (Galpern, Mingus, & Page 2007). Most significantly, by focusing on the individual woman, the rhetoric of choice excludes consideration of the context of social, economic, and environmental conditions that influence and limit women’s choices for both contraception and fertility.
    • p.113

"Something Real: Jane and Me. Memories and Exhortations of a Feminist Ex-Abortionist" (July 25, 2011)


Johnson, Linnea. "Something Real: Jane and Me. Memories and Exhortations of a Feminist Ex-Abortionist". CWLU Herstory Project. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2010.

  • Over the years, I have become convinced that patriarchal capitalism is a system women cannot revise any more than we can "reform" water so that we might breathe it. As long as the law is male, women must be outlaws. I became an outlaw when I joined "Jane," a group of women in Chicago who, between 1969 and 1973, did more than 11,000 abortions.
    Jane, as the Abortion Counseling Service, a work group of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, has come to be called, began in the mid-1960s when of personal necessity, a couple women friends who lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago found a couple men, representing themselves as physicians, who did good, clean abortions. In addition to referring women to decent abortionists, these women were what then was called "patient advocates". Patient advocates can be loosely defined as the unintimidated surrogate accompanying the "patient" to the "doctor's" office for the sole purpose of dislodging information relevant to that "patient" from that "doctor". That a person has a right to information about oneself did not make that information any less difficult to obtain given "standard medical practice," that stone wall behind which was kept what (often little) information was extant. The Service became one of many referral services across the United States referring women who wanted abortions to a person who could be trusted with a speculum, a dilator, and a curette.
  • By 1970 when I joined Jane, which we always called "The Service," I had begun to see that men have power though no right, to colonize women's bodies; that men have power, though no right, to make up laws which effect women and that what I could do about it this time was not again protest through lobbying, convincing, begging, litigating, demonstrating, educating, theorizing, waiting and waiting and waiting to get male intercession or permission. Instead, this time, what I could do was to act outside male law, male control, with women on our behalf. How I expressed this then was by saving that I wanted to "do something real".
  • To me, fighting for Women's Rights was not, is not, a matter of asking or of educating the patriarchs--at parties or anywhere else. Appealing to members of the same group who maintain the custom of precluding rights was then, is now, simply a bad idea.
    "Something real" is how I characterized what I wanted to do. I asked a woman who was standing next to me at the NOW meeting, "Is there anything real going on in Chicago for women? This cocktail party stuff is ridiculous. I want to do something real". She chuckled, as I remember it, and asked for my phone number saying she'd call me in a week or two. I thought, sure, right, but then she did call and she invited me to a meeting of women about abortion, "if you're still interested". I said that if it were to be about making cocktails while lobbying for abortion rights, I wouldn't be interested. She said it wasn't like that.
  • The evening in 1970 I attended my first meeting of the Abortion Counseling Service, fifteen or so white and Semitic women were gathered at someone's house. I remember sitting on the floor wondering what exactly was going on. Eventually, I remember it dawning on me; I remember thinking, "These women are talking about DOING abortions". I hoped that what I surmised was correct, that, indeed, no one in this group would ask me to write to congress, to lobby, to convince anyone of anything, or to wait; maybe I was going to be able to do something real. Doing abortions with the Service has always felt that way to me: real. It is the best work I ever did.
  • Virtually every woman, heterosexual and lesbian, contemplates the possibility (or understands the importance) of abortion. At the beginning of the Service, the Hyde Park women would schedule abortions with the abortionists one day per week. Always, more women need abortions than can find ways to have abortions, so, at some point between 1967-1970, the women and the one (sometimes two) abortionist(s) began working two days per week. Even at $400-500 per abortion (every cent of which the man kept) these good, illegal abortions became the abortions of choice in Chicago.
    Eventually and so that the man who wore a white coat and called himself a doctor could concentrate on the "medical"/ medicalized/"technical"/"important" aspects of abortion, and could, therefore, do more abortions per workday, the women began "assisting". "Assisting" was, at first, finding and equipping a workspace: then, gradually, it became that and giving the pre-abortion injection (of the antibiotic) tetracycline; then it became placing the speculum; then finding, holding onto (with a tenaculum), and swabbing the cervix (with the antiseptic Betadyne). Cleaning the blood off the women having abortions and off the bed on which the abortions were done was an early and constant part of assisting. When what the "doctor" had to do was walk into a room in which lay a calm, well-informed woman who wanted an abortion, what he would do would be to anaesthetize the cervix (with xylocaine), dilate the cervix/os curette the uterus, and then walk on to the next similar situation; his time spent per woman dropped and he was consequently convinced to reduce his charge to $275 per abortion (every cent of which he himself kept).
    Besides assisting, however, what the women came to learn was that the abortionist was not a doctor. Without that mystique of "doctorness" abortion became what it is (and what most other forms of "medicine"/healing actually are a series of things to do carefully, most of which the women were already doing. The simple deduction was profound; if he can do abortions, we can do abortions.
  • From 1971, when the women began doing most of the abortions and sometimes hiring male abortionists to work with them/us, the charge per abortion became $100, or what the woman determined she could afford. The average amount paid was about $40 per abortion, with everyone having an abortion paying something. By the Spring of 1973, when Jane mostly folded (after the January 1973 Roe v. Wade US Supreme Court decision and the appearance of the first "legal" abortion clinics in Chicago), we worked 3 days per week doing 25-30 abortions per day--about 80 per week.
    From the money we charged for abortions, we deducted our supplies, phone and laundry bills. When Jane women were doing most of the abortions, we decided to pay (by the day) the women abortionists (abortionists who held the instruments--mostly, all of us in Jane thought of ourselves as abortionists) and the Jane who organized the phone messages onto 3x5 cards.
    From my talk with other former Janes over the years, I know now there was debate over these pay decisions then, but I don't recall that. Some women remember bitter arguments over a possible loss of altruism should any of us pay ourselves for our work; some women remember arguing about "volunteerism" and not seeming to value our own work if we didn't pay ourselves; some women argued about creating an hierarchical pay scale--and how could we avoid it and who should be paid...
  • Women found our phone number in a variety of ways--from underground/movement papers and bulletin boards in universities and Laundromats; from a friend, physician, clergy, or cop. Women got our phone number from the mother of a friend or from her own mother, oncologist, co-worker, pusher, social worker, or father. Illegal and legal, out of state and in, overt and covert sources passed along our phone number to women.
    Remember that fewer than a hundred or so years ago women had not yet been culturally organized/trained to go to men for any such thing as to have an abortion. Before "professionalization" and "medicalization" (predicated on institutionalized male power) women's bodies were literally in the hands of other women: physicians were little more than grave robbers, dentists with an attitude, barbers with extra straight razors/scalpels, and ghouls.
  • In the early 1970s, there were phone numbers other than ours floating around: phone numbers good for a day or two, a week, maybe a year or two: phone numbers connecting women to masked quacks in Chicago, docs on the take in Detroit, guys working themselves through bartending or medical school or out the back of a van in California, St. Louis, and Weehawken. Phone numbers connected women to opportunists in Florida and to fly-by-nighters in Queens, and here and there was a phone number of a reliable someone working alone or in sync with conscience. With most of the abortionist-profiteers, women would find themselves blindfolded, blindsided, picked up on corners, bound to secrecy or to a kitchen table or motel coffee table. Often, others would do abortions too quickly and without anesthesia, compassion, the exchange of names, or so much as a hello, women finding themselves dumped back at some train station or onto a remote street corner without follow-up, friends, recourse, or information, and out several hundred dollars whether the abortion was complete or not, antiseptic or not, successful or not.
  • Several times a day, whomever was "Janeing" took messages from the tape, writing the information onto 3x9 cards she'd then take to our weekly meetings, the business of which, primarily, was to disperse the cards among the dozen or twenty women working any given week. We chose cards idiosyncratically, noting some similarity or difference in circumstance, neighborhood, ethnicity, or blood factor between ourselves and the name of the woman on the 3x5 card.
    Calling back the phone numbers of the women on the cards, we'd find out that some of the women had already gotten an abortion elsewhere, some had gotten their period, some had given birth, kept it or given it up, and didn't want or need to speak with us. Some women had died. Some women were bleeding or had tubes or gauze or rags stuffed into their uterus; they needed advice, referral to a physician who wouldn't injure them further or turn them in, or advice on what they could do for themselves just then. Some phone numbers had been incorrectly given or received. Some women couldn't talk then but could they call us back some midnight from untraceable pay phone to untraceable pay phone. Often, a boyfriend or father called trying to arrange things for or in spite of the woman whose name, along with his number, he'd left on the Jane tape. However, most often, the woman whose name I had on the 3x5 card talked to me herself and was eager to meet so that I could describe and we could discuss the abortion she'd called to initiate.
  • Towards the close of my one-to-one meetings with the women who wanted abortions, I would write down the date, time, and address of her appointment; I'd write down my phone number, too, in case she had questions or problems after her abortion. I said I wouldn't call her unless the Pap test we'd do prior to the abortion was inconclusive or abnormal.
    The address I'd write down would get her to the "Front," the apartment at which she (and a friend, if she chose) would wait before and to which she'd return after the abortion. Another one of the Service women, another Jane, would drive her and a group of other women wanting abortions, room the Front to the second apartment, the "Place," where she would have the abortion. Only Jane women and women having abortions would be at the Place.
  • Both the Front and the Place were someone's apartment or house. We would volunteer our apartments or houses as we could. Our lives were in evidence in the photos and books on our shelves, the Melmac, teddy bears, or vibrator overlooked in a dining room or bedroom; the glass beads in the doorway, Joplin poster on the wall; in the sheets on our beds on which the abortions were done. The Service used some of the money collected from doing abortions to pay for the Places' laundry to be done professionally; I and many of the rest of the Janes used our best sheets on days our homes were being used as the Place.
    At the Place we checked the information on the 3x9 cards again with the women whose information it was. Whenever we were asked if we were doctors, we said, "NO. We are not doctors. We are abortionists". None of the women who did those 11,000 abortions had been medically schooled.
  • We women in Jane learned how to do abortions from one another, as peer-apprentices, though no one called it that. Our home-done abortions had a lower infection rate (about 2%) than do most hospital surgeries. We killed no one, a fact which contrasts with what happened when legislators legalized abortion allowing physicians who had not necessarily ever been trained to do abortions, to do abortions. Quite simply, women died from legal abortions because the law granted authority (to physicians) without regard to proficiency. Similarly, those without license are not granted legal authority to do abortions, without regard to proficiency, the test for what is "legal" having to do with power and who has (granted themselves) the right to wield it. I have always been amazed at how relatively simple the physical process of performing abortions is, how readily it is learned; what keeps most of us away from that realization is that closed guild which is organized medicine.
  • It was at the South Side apartment that seven of us were busted on the May day in 1972 that J. Edgar Hoover finally died. Neither the Chicago Police nor the Outfit/Mafia had previously bothered us though each knew of our work: we were clean, damn good, and made too little money to interest them.
    From all accounts, what happened to cause the bust was that the police, who reputedly knew and had known about us and who had photos of us at various political demonstrations and at our various residences over time, had been hounded by a Catholic sister-in-law of a woman who had chosen to have an abortion. The cops had put her off, apparently, but she was persistent and outraged that abortions could be going on at all and further outraged at the cops' reaction, or lack thereof, to her complaint.
    The cops took everyone around that day, scooping up people first at the Place, then, at the Front--friends, boyfriends, mothers--there must have been a couple dozen people busted in mid-afternoon who didn't get tossed into jail until midnight. Seven Service women were charged with "battery" and the like. All charges were subsequently dropped ostensibly because the law was changed (Roe v. Wade, 1973) although the law never changed enough to "allow" non-physicians to do abortions.
  • The arrest was one of several points during the history of the Service when women dropped out. For instance, when the male abortionists were "found out" many of the women in the Service said. something like "They're not doctors!" and while some of us had a look of panic, horror, or terror on our faces, others, like me, smiled broadly saying it. Just after the bust I remember a discussion in which some women asked if we should continue doing abortions. I was impatient with talk like that. The arrests changed nothing for me; our doing abortions was (still) both right and illegal.
    When Jane finally did disband (late 1973), after abortion was effectively "legalized," we unconsciously made the same error that the Suffragists had made after Suffrage had been "granted" in the US: we thought we'd won, changed something, that someone somewhere was wising up, seeing the light. But what we did was to remand women back into the realm of male law, male custom, medical custody. Bad idea then as now.

"Thousands gather at Women's March rallies in D.C., across U.S. to protect Roe v. Wade" (October 2, 2021)


Caroline Kitchener, Meagan Flynn, Lola Fadulu, Donovan J. Thomas and Paul Schwartzman (October 2, 2021). "Thousands gather at Women's March rallies in D.C., across U.S. to protect Roe v. Wade". The Washington Post.

  • “No matter where you live, no matter where you are, this moment is dark — it is dark — but that’s why we’re here,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president of Planned Parenthood, told the crowd at the “Rally for Abortion Justice.”
    “It is our job to imagine the light, even when we can’t see it,” Johnson said. “It is our job to turn pain into purpose. It is our job to turn pain into power.”
  • By 1 p.m., the crowd had swelled to the thousands as people spilled into the streets on either side of Freedom Plaza, clustering in pockets in the shade, their eyes on the stage. <br “Not only is abortion health care, but at my organization we also believe it’s self-care,” Marsha Jones, executive director of the Afiya Center, a Texas-based abortion rights organization, told the throng. “You can no longer tell us what to do with our bodies.”
  • The day of demonstrations was the first that Women’s March has organized since former president Donald Trump left office in January. Trump’s 2016 election catalyzed the group’s first nationwide demonstration, which drew millions of protesters to D.C. and marches like it around the country, is widely considered the largest single day of activism in the country’s history, inspiring people to become first-time protesters, community leaders and politicians.
  • Abortion advocates were happy to see the words “abortion” included in the name of the March, said Aimee Arrambide, the executive director of Avow, an abortion rights group in Texas.
    “There is stigma surrounding abortion, even from people who support abortion access,” she said.
  • Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of Women’s March, described the movement as a coalition of more than 120 groups, including Planned Parenthood and Black Feminist Future, focused on ensuring that people are able to safely and legally access abortion and health care for their families.
    “Roe is the floor, not the ceiling,” Carmona said. “Abortion rights, reproductive justice, is absolutely a part of voting rights and justice for immigrants, and racial justice because they can’t be extracted from themselves. The most impacted communities across all those groups are communities of color.”

"About". NARAL Pro-Choice America.

  • Who we are
    The 2.5 million members of NARAL Pro-Choice America fight for reproductive freedom for every body. Each day, we organize and mobilize to protect that freedom by fighting for access to abortion care, birth control, paid parental leave, and protections from pregnancy discrimination.
    Like 77% of Americans, we believe in the legal right to abortion. We are the foot soldiers who work to ensure that abortion access is not only protected but expanded. Since 1969, our member-driven campaigns have propelled political and cultural change at every level, from the statehouse to the White House.
    When it comes time to rally by the thousands on the steps of the Supreme Court in support of abortion access, our members are there.
    When it comes time to push back against the disinformation and fear peddled by anti-choice extremists who want to take away our freedom, our members are there.
    And when it comes time to hold political leaders accountable at the ballot box, our members are there.
    Working together, we push our friends to be bolder, lift up the champions fighting for true reproductive freedom, and shine a spotlight of accountability on the bad actors trying to impose their unpopular and out-of-touch agenda on us all.
  • What we do
    Organize our 2.5 million members, and the allies around us, to make sure leaders at every level hear from their constituents—the 7 in 10 Americans who support our right to reproductive freedom.
    Educate citizens, lawmakers, and other influencers about the dangerous effects of anti-choice policies and the threat of anti-choice disinformation.
    Work at the state level to promote progressive, proactive policies to advance reproductive freedom and fight back against harmful restrictions that threaten our access to reproductive healthcare and the ability to make our own decisions about pregnancy.
    Fight to elect champions who don’t just agree with the 77% of Americans who support the legal right to abortion, but truly fight for reproductive freedom. And when anti-choice candidates threaten to take away our rights, we work to hold them accountable by defeating them at the ballot box.
  • Mindful of the horrors of back-alley abortions and fueled by a strong conviction that women’s personal reproductive-health decisions are theirs alone, NARAL’s foundation arm gives voice to the 7 in 10 Americans who believe that abortion should remain legal and accessible.
    With more than 2.5 million member activists representing every state in the union, we are on the front lines of the fight to preserve and expand reproductive freedom and abortion access in the 21st century. We believe in the power of people to make a difference, and we help to drive that positive change by educating Americans about the threats to reproductive freedom and holding bad actors accountable at every level.
    Together, we can ensure an environment that guarantees every woman the right to informed and empowered choices.
  • What we do
    Fight against anti-choice attacks and hold bad actors accountable at the national and local levels, while working to protect and expand reproductive freedom and abortion access across the country.
    Educate about the issues affecting our reproductive freedom, and the impact they have on the lives of women and families. This includes our annual flagship publication, Who Decides? The Status of Women’s Reproductive Rights in the United States.
    Organize, mobilize and grow our activist and supporter base to ensure officials at all levels of government hear from the people they represent.
    Shift the cultural discourse around abortion access specifically, and reproductive freedom generally, to end the stigma and shame that some place on basic health services and that hinder women from accessing the care they need.
  • Now more than ever, we need pro-choice champions at all levels of government who will stand up and fight for the values that Americans hold dear. Amidst unprecedented attacks on the right to access basic reproductive healthcare, we need leaders who will not only oppose the torrent of anti-choice restrictions that cut off access to care, but to advance and expand access for all Americans.
    That’s why NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC endorses pro-choice champions and challengers in federal and state races across the country. Roe v. Wade is very much at stake. And given the constant attacks we’ve seen in Congress and in state legislatures over the past few years, we cannot afford to give one inch in the coming battles. We must harness the power of the 7 in 10 Americans who support a woman’s right to choose and translate that consensus into victories at the ballot box.

“Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy” (2011)


“Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy” by Carrie Pitzulo, University of Chicago Press, (2011)

  • Lawrence Lader, who with Pay Maginnis helped to found the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) in 1969, was active in the nascent abortion rights movement in the mid-1960s. In spite of growing media attention, he said of national support, “There was almost nobody in the beginning, so it was lonely. . . . I couldn’t even tell whether the incipient Women’s Movement was interested in abortion.” He argued that the movement grew after his book Abortion was published in 1966, though there was still little institutional support for the cause. Indeed there was a precipitous increase in media coverage of the subject in 1967. For example, “Time” praised the liberalization of state laws in 1967, and later that year the magazine ran a piece critical of “archaic and hypocritical concepts and statutes” regarding abortion.
    If Lader believed he had few allies in the mid-sixties, he and Maginnis could count on “Playboy.”
    • p.158
  • In the Forum, editors listed the states considering abortion reform, as well as the names of congressional representatives. Playboy called on readers to write to their congressmen and demand abortion reform. Readers responded with a flood of letters. Fully one-half of the twenty-four total Forum letters published in August 1967 were about abortion; the majority were in favor of reform. To one letter from a woman who described her guilt and shame over an abortion she had as a teenager, Playboy replied, “It is our hope that a general increase of openness and honesty about sex, more adequate se education for teenagers … and a liberalization of abortion laws will spare other girls from experiences such as yours.”
    With growing public debate, as evidenced in “Playboy” and throughout the culture, the abortion rights movement became truly national in scope in the late 1960s and particularly by 1970. Various states, including Colorado and New York began to expand access to abortion. By that time, the Playboy Foundation had for several years been working in support of expanded access to birth control and abortion.
    • p.160
  • Calling not for liberalization, which in many states required a woman to get approval by a committee of doctors before having an abortion, Dr. Nathan H. Rappaport of New York trumpeted repeal of all abortion laws. Rappaport, who had just completed his seventh prison term for performing abortions, describing his ordeal and pleased, “Every pregnant woman, single or married, should be able to get an abortion on demand, without being compelled to give any reason whatsoever for her decision.” In July 1970, a clergyman who regularly counseled women with unwanted pregnancies asked the Forum for information to offer women. Playboy responded with an update on all existing state laws, as well as information on obtaining an abortion overseas.
    • p.161
  • In September 1971, “Playboy” included “A Special ‘Playboy Forum’ Report” to aid women in obtaining abortions. In the report, the magazine surveyed changing state abortion laws but ultimately concluded that recent progress had stalled: “The holy war to protect the ‘right to life’ of the fetus gets into high gear-and American women are the victims.” The piece provided contact information for pro-choice organizations such as NARAL, and offered guidance on how “to obtain an abortion,” which included practical information such as phone numbers for abortion consultation services in various states and overseas, and for states without such hotlines, Playboy listed national organizations like Planned Parenthood. Further, updates on legal battles surrounding abortion and other contemporary issues were featured monthly in a portion of the Forum called “Newsfront”
    Organizations that appeared in the Forum enjoyed increased visibility, and were often able to expand their reach. For instance, Ruth Proskauer Smith, president of the Abortion Rights Association of New York, noted that after her organization was mentioned in a previous issue, it received “several hundred requests from Playboy readers” for informational pamphlets on abortion rights. Smith’s organization was later able to revise and reprint a pamphlet on abortion providers because the “response from [Playboy] readers was so great.” Likewise, Roberta Schneiderman of Zero Population Growth Abortion Referral Service thanked Playboy for publishing phone numbers for the service: “we received over 700 calls from persons who said they found us through “Playboy”…. Please keep up the good work. Elective abortion couldn’t have a better friend and we are enormously grateful.” Attorney Harriet F. Pilpel, board member of Planned Parenthood-World Population and of the American Civil Liberties Union, called reproductive freedom “a necessary and fundamental freedom in a democratic society,”and she praised the Forum “for its significant role in reporting developments and opinions in science, law, morality and sociology as they related to sex, reproduction, civil liberties and human rights.
    • p.164

“Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America” (2010)


“Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America” by Leslie J. Reagan, Berkeley, California: University of California Press, (2010)

  • It is ironic now for feminists who battled physicians and medical control in the 1960s and 1970s, but it is evident that the cultural and political authority of physicians at the time-and physicians’ belief in their own autonomy and judgment-helped women win constitutional protection of the right to make decisions about pregnancy, reproduction, and abortion. That right, as described in “Roe v Wade” (1973), was framed as one shared between a woman and her doctor and limited by trimester and medically determined viability of the fetus, but in practice and in the words of the leaders of obstetrics and gynecology, abortion was a decision for the woman herself to make. Since the initial legalization of abortion, however, that right to make a decision and the ability to carry it out have been severely curtailed by the passage of myriad restrictive laws upheld by the Supreme Court as well as by restrictions on federal and state welfare assistance, insurance, and funding and by the refusal of many physicians and hospitals to provide the legal procedure. Most counties in the country have no abortion providers; in some states young women are forced by law to inform their parents of their abortion plans; insurance plans often exclude abortion; Catholic-owned hospitals ban the provision of abortion and birth control. And antiabortion activists harass and threaten patients, physicians, and clinic staff; bombing clinics; and kill abortion providers.
    • p.176
  • Reproductive rights activists at the time of the “Roe v. Wade” decision foresaw and tried to prevent restrictions and inequitable access to abortion. They did not anticipate, however, that the personalized harassment that had been on the fringe of the antiabortion movement would become the norm and that anti-abortion activists would turn to harassment, violence, terrorism, and murder As many observed in the aftermath of Dr. Tiller’s murder, even as abortion remained legal, decades of terrorism had effectively stopped some doctors from providing abortions and prevented many women from obtaining a legal procedure that they deemed necessary. In many counties and states today, it is so difficult and expensive to obtain an abortion that the present is little different from the pre-Roe era.
    • p.177
  • Mothers-middle-class, married, and almost all white-were the first to go public in the early 1960s and talk about their need for abortion. They spoke o their agony when they had realized that a hoped-for child might be severely damaged by infectious disease and of their decisions to abort when it had appeared that carrying a pregnancy to term would spell tragedy for their children, their families, and themselves. As they spoke to the press, to courtrooms, and to the public, these mothers displayed their strong sense that having an abortion was the right thing for them to do in that situation and was their decision to make The strength of that view and their resolve at a time when abortion was a crime and highly stigmatized in public representations point to the long-standing moral position held by women that it was their responsibility as mothers, as potential mothers, and as the lifelong caregivers of children to think carefully and to decide whether to bring a child into the world.
    These mothers represented one expression of the mobilization of different groups of mothers in this period to gain rights, benefits, and respect for their lives, their work as mothers, and their decisions. The welfare rights movement of poor African American, Latina, and white mothers; mothers’ struggles for education for their disabled children; and the reproductive rights movements of women f color who fought sterilization and asserted their right to have children all emerged in the mid-1960s and early 1970s as well. When white married, middle-class mothers confronted the dilemmas of German measles, they not only made abortion respectable; they also made respectful discussion of abortion possible and legal change urgent. As active citizens, they translated their needs into sophisticated lobbying, voting, and legal work.
    • p.177
  • The earliest efforts to change the nation’s criminal abortion laws came not out of sexual liberation but out of the anxieties and responsibilities felt by married mothers. Women themselves quickly turned to the questions of privacy and sexual freedom, however. German measles provided a wedge for opening up discussion and a spark for physicians to act in defense of their own interests, but it soon became much less important than the general problem that women could not control their reproductive capacity, that they needed abortions, and that the law did not permit women to make these moral decisions for themselves. Indeed, when women’s groups first heard of abortion law reform efforts, they saw that abortion reform should be broader than the expansion of therapeutic abortion on the grounds of the health of the woman or fetus and quickly embraced the legalization of abortion for reasons beyond health.
    • pp.177-178
  • Widmyer and the other mothers who sought abortions because of probable birth defects were joined by thousands of other women in the late 1960s and early 1970s who spoke out in public at rallies and to journalists, who signed their names to petitions and in letters to politicians and editors, who challenged the law by breaking it and by writing briefs, who declared that they too had had abortions and had the moral and legal right to made decisions about pregnancy and motherhood. Furthermore, they spoke clearly of female sexuality and women’s rights to control their own bodies as well as their rights as (potential) mothers. By the time of Widmyer’s abortion in 1970, a mass movement of women publicly declared their need for and right to abortion demanded the dismantling of the paternalistic therapeutic abortion system, and insisted upon the legalization of abortion.
    It is apparent too that fathers-“family men,” as the Jaycees described themselves-joined in the difficult, heartrending conversations with their wives. They imagined themselves as fathers, scrutinized their own values, and concluded with women that these were decisions that in a democracy of people “of many faiths” could not be made by law or by religion for everyone but had to be left to individual citizens. The movement to make abortions legal was rooted I motherhood and family. Middle-class family culture of the early 1960s-which mass media tended to represents as homogenous and white and which radical activists and feminists later tended to represent as conformist and simpleminded-was more complex nuanced, and politically active than is sometimes now recalled or presumed. The pearls and hats, the dark suits and portraits of respectability should not confuse us now-that respectability and the real felt needs of mothers began the groundswell toward radical transformations in patients’ rights, reproductive rights, and women’s sexual freedom.

“Reproductive Justice: An Introduction” (March 21, 2017)


Ross L, Solinger R (March 21, 2017). “Reproductive Justice: An Introduction”. Oakland, California.

  • I-Loretta-had experiences that were like the ones that this first-year college student had. They were part of my Black feminist journey. I was that young woman with the OMG panic in 1970. Twenty-four years later, I helped create the reproductive justice framework with eleven other Black women meeting in Chicago in 1994 at a larger pro-choice conference advocating for health care reform. The meeting was organized by the Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance and the Ms. Foundation for Women. At the time, the Clinton administration’s plan for health care reform avoided the issue of reproductive health care, especially abortion, an attempt to placate Republican opponents.
    After the first day of the conference, the twelve of us gathered to discuss Bill Clinton’s transparent and overly optimistic attempt to appease implacably hostile Republicans, an attempt which didn’t make sense to us. We didn’t trust that the administration would feint to the right and then move left. If health care reform did not explicitly prioritize women’s needs, how could we support it? We felt we were being thrown under the bus by our purported allies.
    • p.63
  • To begin with, we absolutely recognized that reproductive health care is the main reason many women first visit a doctor. After menstruation, our “second” most unforgettable memory of becoming a woman is often the cranked-up cold speculum during our first pelvic exam. Those stirrups, together with the speculum, basically say, “Welcome to womanhood!” Too many girls and women still receive that message under conditions that feel sexist. And the conditions feel sexist in part because health care is meted out or withheld according to a regime of male-controlled political calculations, regarding that medical services our society-and women, in particular-need and deserve.
    We objected first of all to the fact that the Clinton health reform efforts in the early 1990s efforts that ultimately failed, pandered to Republicans. But second, we objected to the ways that their proposals isolated reproductive rights issues from other social justice issues (the OMG questions) for vulnerable people. The proposals on the table did not make connections between the decision to become a mother-or not-and extremely relevant issues such as economics, immigration, and incarceration. Third, the twelve Black women at the pro-choice conference in 1994 collectively questioned the primacy of abortion, but not its necessity. We placed “ourselves” in the center of our analysis and made the case that while abortion was a crucial resource for us, we also needed health care, education, jobs, day care, and the right to motherhood. Taking this position was a powerful example of “centering”, placing oneself in the center of the lens in order to discover new ways of describing reality from a particular standpoint. These fresh perspectives-so different from the endless and debilitating debates that focused exclusively on abortion-radically shifted our thinking and launched the concept of reproductive justice by splicing together the equation of “reproductive rights” + “social justice” = “reproductive justice”.
    • pp.64-65
  • Our group of twelve, an informal alliance we called Women of African Descent for Reproductive Justice, decided to launch an ad campaign to challenge the Clinton administration’s strategy and to get the attention of Washington policy makers. We crafted a national statement for Black women regarding our demands for health care reform. Six weeks after the Chicago meeting, we raised the funds to place a full-page signature ad in both the “Washington Post” and “Roll Call” (a publication that serves all the people who work in Congress and on Capitol Hill) on August 16, 1994, under the more media-friendly name Black Women on Health Care Reform. Almost 850 African American women joined, including professor Angela Davis, novelist Alice Walker, and supermodel Veronica Webb.
    Our group created the concept of reproductive justice and a nascent movement out of our need to develop a response to a public policy proposal for health care reform that, as it stood, failed to meet the needs of women. As Black women, we shared a unique standpoint that expressed how the reproductive privileges of some women depended on the reproductive disciplining of other women in ways that did not challenge racism or other vehicles of inequality.
    • p.65

"The Day After Roe" (June 2006)


Rosen, Jeffrey (June 2006). "The Day After Roe". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 20, 201 ===

  • The day after Roe, of course, there would be just as much mobilization in blue states to protect abortion as there would be in red states to restrict it. Even without Roe v. Wade, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a woman’s right to choose would be secure in about twenty-three states. Six of these (California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, and Washington) already have laws on the books protecting choice throughout pregnancy. In ten others (Alaska, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Tennessee, and West Virginia), state courts have ruled that their state constitutions protect abortion rights broadly throughout pregnancy. And in seven more (Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Wyoming), the political climate is sympathetic to choice, and citizens are likely to demand strong new laws protecting abortion.
  • The moment the new Congress was sworn in after a national election dominated by abortion, Democrats in both chambers would introduce a federal bill to codify the protections of Roe v. Wade. It might look very much like the Freedom of Choice Act, which has languished in Congress for the past decade. That act would protect a woman’s right to choose before fetal viability and allow states to ban abortion after fetal viability, unless the life or health of the mother is threatened. The Freedom of Choice Act was introduced in the Democratic Congress that followed Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 and was defeated in part because pro-choice extremists insisted that it didn’t go far enough in protecting late-term abortions. The more moderate Democrats elected after the overturning of Roe, one hopes, would not make the same mistake.
  • If the House and Senate were Democratic, it would be very difficult, but perhaps not impossible, to get two-thirds of each chamber to propose a pro-choice constitutional amendment. But persuading three-fourths of the state legislatures to ratify the amendment could take years. As time passed, the frustration of a highly mobilized, pro-choice majority would dramatically increase as it found itself repeatedly thwarted from enacting its wishes into law. “I can imagine a fifty-front war going on for the next thirty years,” says Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Be careful what you wish for.”

“The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict” (1994)


Staggenborg, Suzanne (1994). “The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict”, Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-508925-1.

  • The social movement that became known as the “pro-choice” movement originated in the 1960s as a loose coalition of women’s movement, single-issue “abortion” movement, and population movement activists and organizations. Paradoxically, the movement achieved its most spectacular victory-the legalization of abortion in 1973-before pro-choice forces became very well organized or powerful.
    • Introduction, p.3
  • After the legalization of abortion, the balance of power shifted. One of the unfortunate side-effects of victory is that it often provokes opponents into action while the victors may be lulled into complacency. ‘’Roe v. Wade’’ was indeed a powerful stimulus for the anti-abortion countermovement, which grew enormously after 1973. Contrary to popular belief, however, the pro-choice movement did not simply fold up shop after 1973, only to revive again in the late 1970s. The pro-choice coalition was too diverse, and the reaction of the countermovement too swift, for that to have happened. The movement was, however, forced into a reactive stance as the countermovement began to shape the pro-choice agenda. Countermovement activities precluded the adoption of broader goals and tactics, which might have been pursued following the victory of 1973, but they also prevented the decline of the pro-choice movement, which might also have occurred after the victory. Instead, the pro-choice movement began to lay the organizational groundwork that would enable it to become a long-term single-issue defender of legal abortion.
    It was after the countermovement achieved its first major victories, beginning with Congressional passage of the Hyde Amendment banning Medicaid funding of abortion in 1976,that the pro-choice movement received the spur it needed in order to expand. At the same time, the countermovement was also encouraged, rather than lulled, by its partial victories, and the movement continued to be limited in its strategic and tactical options by the need to respond to countermovement initiatives. Despite the growth in the late 190s of a “reproductive rights” component of the pro-choice movement that favored direct-action tactics and attempted to promote a broad definition of reproductive “choice,” the movement as a whole did not broaden its objectives and repertoire of collective action. Rather, the goals of the movement became increasingly narrow in response to the single-issue countermovement.
    • p.4
  • Despite its ups and downs, the pro-choice movement has remained continually mobilized since its 1973 victory. A major argument of this book is that the movement has been able to maintain itself and grow in strength since the legalization of abortion by acquiring professional leadership and formalized organizational structures. In part, this transformation was necessary because the protest movements of the 1960s that had nourished the abortion movement prior to legalization were declining. Whereas the strength of the “social movement sector” helped compensate for organization deficits in the movement before legalization, by the late 1970s the pro-choice movement had to develop stronger organizational structures to compensate for the demise of other social movements, notably the women’s liberation and population movements, which had previously provided grass-roots support for the abortion movement. This strengthening of the pro-choice organizations was made possible in part by the legitimacy created for the movement by the “Roe v. Wade” victory and in part by the threats created by the anti-abortion countermovement. Contrary to some theories of what happens to movements when they become “institutionalized,” however, these developments actually facilitated, rather than hindered, the growth of grass-roots movement activities.
    • pp.4-5
  • When it began in the 1960s, the movement to legalize abortion “was just a brave tiny army.” There were no large national organizations with professional staffs advocating legal abortion. Nevertheless, a movement did shape and in 1973 abortion became legal throughout the United States. How did this social movement emerge, and what did it look like before “Roe v. Wade”?”
    An “insider” model of social movements would predict that the movement arose from within established institutions, with support from elites, or that professional movement organizers engineered the movement. After legalization of abortion, as we shall see, the movement did indeed develop professional leader-ship and formalized organizational structures, which played a major role in maintaining the pro-choice movement. But before “Roe v. Wade”, the movement relied much more on the challenging groups of the 1960s, including the women’s movement, than on the world of established interest groups. Nevertheless, the movement was not a complete “outsider” to the established political process. The abortion movement mobilized both grass-roots constituents activated by other movements of the 1960s and individuals with many years of experience in established political and voluntary organizations.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, p.13
  • If physicians, along with other professionals, did lead the crusade to legalize abortion in the 1960s, this would indeed be ironic, given their role in making abortion illegal in the United States in the nineteenth century (se Mohr, 1978). Physicians did change their stance toward abortion in the twentieth century, as they were no longer threatened by “irregular” competitors and now had an interest in reforming abortion laws that interfered with their ability to make medical decisions about abortion. As early as the 1930s, there were doctors and family-planning advocates interested in changing the abortion laws, but few called for radical changes in the laws, and no movement for legalization emerged at that time (see Francome, 1984:74-76). Discussions of abortion in the 1940s and 1950s were quite cautious, and deliberately conservative appeals were made to doctors and lawyers by abortion law reform advocates such as Harold Rosen, who in 1954 published “Therapeutic Abortion”, a collection of essays calling for greater freedom for doctors to make decisions about abortion, and Glanville Williams, who in 1957 similarly appealed to the interests of lawyers in “The Sanctity of Life and the Criminal Law” (Olasky, 1988-89:17-18). Some articles suggesting needed reforms were also published in professional journals in the 1950s, and several conferences on abortion were held, including one sponsored by Planned Parenthood that called on the American Law Institute to study the abortion laws (Francome, 1984; Rubin, 1987). The American Law Institute (ALI) subsequently drafted a model abortion law allowing for therapeutic abortions under limited conditions as part of a Model Penal Code intended to standardize state criminal laws. A draft of the recommendations was released in 1959, and a final version of the Model Penal Code was adopted by the ALI in 1962. The ALI recommendations became the basis for a number of limited reforms of abortion laws enacted by state legislatures in the 1960s.
    This sequence of events seems to support the view that the movement to legalize abortion originated within professional associations and other established organizations. The difficulty with this explanation, however, is that it fails to take into account the role of external events in pulling doctors and other professionals into the abortion controversy. Moreover, the support that established interest groups and organizations did provide, particularly in the early years of the movement, was quite limited. Dissatisfaction with the limited actions and policies of these groups forced those who wanted significant change in the abortion laws to build a movement outside the established power structure.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, pp.13-14
  • Support for abortion law reform among professionals and professional associations was very quiet in the 1950s and early 1960s, receiving little media attention (cf. Tatalovich and Daynes, 1981:34). Reform efforts might have remained practically invisible were it not for two events that created unexpected opportunities by generating media attention and public support for abortion law reform. The first, in 1962, was the highly publicized case of Sherri Finkbine, a woman who attempted to get a legal abortion in the United states after learning that she had taken thalidomide, a drug that caused fetal deformity, and who ended up having an abortion in Sweden. The incident touched off nationwide concern about thalidomide as well as a debate over abortion (see Faux, 1988:42-51; and Tatalovich and Daynes, 1981:44-46, for detailed accounts). The second “event” was an epidemic of rubella measles in the United states in the early 1960s, a disease that can cause fetal deformity when contracted bya pregnant woman. Both events influenced public opinion toward reform of the abortion laws and gave impetus to the movement (cf. Lader, 1973; Rubin, 1987; Steinhoff and Diamond, 1977; Tatalovich and Daynes, 1981). As Luker (1984:80-81) argued, these events forced doctors to confront differences within their profession over abortion, causing some of the more liberal doctors to support reform of the abortion laws.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, p.14-15
  • The medical community did become involved in lobbying for abortion reform laws in a number of states (Mohr, 1989). However, most professional associations endorsed limited reform rather than total repeal of the abortion laws, and support for the movement from established organizations like Planned Parenthood was slow in coming. IN 1967 the American Medical Association (AMA) endorsed the ALI model of reform, and in 1968 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the same model of limited reform (Tatalovich and Daynes, 1981:53-58). The AMA debated the repeal position in 1970, the year in which four states passed very liberal abortion bills, but, because of divisions among its members on the issue, ended up adopting a position short of repeal, although more liberal than the ALI model 9Tatalovich and Daynes, 1981:56). In 1968 the American Public Health Association became the first professional organization to take a repeal rather than a reform position. Other professional associations, including the American Bar Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, also eventually endorsed repeal in the early 1970s, after the repeal movement had been active for a number of years. Planned Parenthood, the leading family-planning organization, did not vote to endorse abortion law repeal until 1969 and gave little organizational support to the movement before the legalization of abortion (Lader, 1973:84). The board of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) endorsed abortion law repeal in 1967 (Walker, 1990), but the New York Civil Liberties Union was much more active than was the national organization in the years before legalization.
    An organization devoted to the single issue of abortion, the Association for the Study of Abortion (ASA), was formed as a result of the professional interest in abortion but, again, was notable for its limited approach. ASA was found in 1964 by Dr. Alan Guttmacher of Planned Parenthood as an educational association consisting largely of doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. Although “national in its outlook, ASA was based in New York and consisted of only about twenty active members (interviews with Lawrence Lader, 1984). The organization initially advocated reform, rather than repeal, of the abortion laws, and its activities consisted largely of publishing and distributing educational materials and supporting research projects on abortion.
    ASA was important in lending “prestige and authority” to the abortion reform cause in the early years when this was badly needed (Lader, 1973:58). The organization did eventually come around to the repeal position and played an essential role in the effort to legalize abortion.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, p.15
  • Although established interest groups and organizations of professionals were not the entrepreneurs of the abortion movement, they did play an important role in bringing together activists who were interested in abortion and frustrated by the limited activity of existing organizations. A number of early repeal activists were volunteers or staff in family-planning organizations like Planned Parenthood who, in dealing with women seeking abortions became concerned about the issue. Through their firsthand experience, these activists were acutely aware that limited reform of the abortion laws, as opposed to repeal, would not meet women’s need for access to abortion.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, p.16
  • In Illinois and elsewhere, the abortion movement was initiated by a small number of activists who were in no way “outsiders” to their communities and their organizations Rather, they were persons with extensive experience in professional, political, and voluntary organizations who recruited other “solid citizens” to join them. But the new movement did not speak for powerful established interest groups such as the AMA or even Planned Parenthood. The entrepreneurs of the movement were volunteers, albeit experienced ones, who formed new organizations and who needed grass-roots constituents from outside established interest groups.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, pp.17-18
  • Although a few politically experienced individuals helped start the abortion movement, its success was very much dependent on the cycle of protest under way in the 1960s. Other social movements in the expanded social movement sector of the period aided the mobilization of the abortion rights movement in several ways. The civil rights movement was an important precursor that generated social activism among liberal churches and clergy and offered tactical models to numerous other movements, including the abortion movement. Women, college students and other young people who were activated by earlier movements of the 1960s became the grass0roots constituents of the movement of legalize abortion. The family-planning, population,, and women’s movements directly aided mobilization by providing organizational bases and constituents for the abortion movement.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, p.18
  • A number of individuals who became active in NARAL were also active, previously or simultaneously, in population organizations like the Association for Voluntary Sterilization (AVS) and Zero Population Growth (ZPG). Lawrence Lader, for instance, had served on the executive committee of AVS and on the board of ZPG (Lader, 1973). Other early NARAL activists, including Ruth Proskauer Smith and Beatrice McClintock, had previously worked together in the Association for Voluntary Sterilization as well as in the Association for the Study of Abortion (Nathanson, 1979:48) and in Planned Parenthood. While population groups like AVS contributed some activists, others, notably ZPG, became active participants in the repeal campaign.
    ZPG was organized in 1968 and took an abortion repeal position in 1969, after the founding of NARAL and possibly as a result of overlapping memberships. Although a repeal position on abortion was considered consistent with ZPG’s goal of bringing down the birthrate, there was some internal debate as to how active ZPG should be on the abortion issue. ZPG’s leadership consisted of both individuals concerned primarily with family-planning issues and persons who identified primarily with the environmental movement. The former pushed ZPG’s involvement in the repeal effort, whereas the latter were concerned that ZPG maintain a broader perspective. For example, ZPG executive director Hal Seielstad was an environmentalist who expressed concern in 1972 that “many people think of ZPF solely as an advocate of abortion” even though “the question of abortion is a minor one in the entire program of achieving zero population growth in this country (ZPF “National Reporter”, June 1972).
    But despite one executive director’s warning that ZPG should “not neglect the other goals and become largely identified in the public mind with this one issue” (ZPG “National reporter”, June 1972), ZPG was fairly active in the repeal movement before legalization for several reasons. First, as already noted, in this period there were a number of activists among ZPG’s leaders concerned mainly with family planning. Because organizations like Planned Parenthood were not heavily involved in the abortion movement at the time, these activists had few other organizations through which to work for abortion repeal. Second, the movement for legal abortion was very small during this period and so needed ZPG’s help Third, and probably most important, ZPG’s real strength at the time was in its local chapters, man of which had student constituencies. IT was the local ZPG chapters that became the most highly involved in the nascent abortion repeal movement, in some areas as the only organized representatives of the nascent abortion movement. It also is noteworthy that the local chapters were completely autonomous from the national organization, allowing grass-roots activists to influence organizational activities.
    • Ch.2 The Emergence of the Movement, pp.18-19
  • At the same time that the single-issue “abortion movement” was beginning to take shape, the women’s movement was also reemerging. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966 and endorsed abortion repeal at its second national convention in 1967. The endorsement was not a foregone conclusion and, in fact, provoked considerable conflict within the “older branch” women’s movement organization. At the tie, abortion had not yet been defined as a “women’s rights” issue, causing concern among a number of NOW members that the position would hurt NOW’s credibility. However, NOW founder Betty Friedan, who was an old friend of Lawrence Lader’s from their common backgrounds in journalism, strongly supported adoption of the repeal plank. According to Jean Faust, a NOW activist interviewed by Lader, Friedan was backed by younger NOW members:
    The professional women demanded we concentrate on economic goals-they were scared of harming the organization’s dignity with abortion and sex. It was the kids, and not just the New York bloc, who led the fight. Kids from Michigan, Ohio, and Texas kept standing up and shouting, “We’ve got to have an abortion plank.” We pushed it through finally, but a lot of delegates resigned. (quoted in Lader, 1973:37)
    NOW’s participation in the abortion movement was, for several reason, limited in the early years. The abortion issue was controversial, and not all chapters were willing to tackle it. Moreover, many NOW members and chapters were preoccupied with economic issues in the 1960s and early 1970s. And perhaps most important, the national organization lacked the kind of structure necessary to promote grass-roots participation on the issue. The organization did form a national committee to deal with abortion, but, like other national task forces and committees, committee chairs had to operate with very few resources. Communication channels were not well established in the organization, and national coordinators had a difficult time getting in touch with the chapters. As Lana Clarke Phelan, who served as coordinator of NOW’s national task force on abortion prior to 1973, recalled in a 1984 interview:
    NOW was so loosely grouped at that time. There was no networking. There were phone calls for those that could afford them and plane tickets to meetings for those that could afford them,, but no regular communication. And of course, as more members and chapters came into NOW there were more internal factions. Now that NOW is a big organization, of course, everything has changed.
    • p.20
  • Some NOW chapters were highly involved in the repeal cause. The New York chapter was particularly active and spawned New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal in 1968 to coordinate NOW abortion repeal work. But other chapters took little interest in the abortion issue. Lucinda Cisler, another pre-1973 national NOW abortion committee coordinator, commented in an interview that she thought some chapters wanted abortion removed from NOW’s “Bill of Rights for Women” because it made their work on other issues more difficult and that some chapters had a difficult time finding a coordinator for a local abortion committee.
    • p.20
  • As early as 1966, movement activists began exploring the possibility of generating a test case to challenge state abortion laws (see Lader, 1973:12). The physician involved in the Washington, D.C. case, Dr. Milan Vutich, was openly performing abortions, and movement activists referred hundreds of women to him with the expectation that he eventually would be arrested. As Lawrence Lader pointed out:
    I don’t think the Supreme Court could have refused to hear a case [on abortion] with public opinion, the state laws, and the Vuitch case. . . . Dr. Vuitch was a friend of mine, and I referred women to him. . . . We had him keep a very careful record of each woman patient in terms of health, mental health physical health, etc. So when we went into court we went in with very good documentation of the women’s health, and we got a good case. (interview with Lawrence Lader, 1984)
    Although none of the abortion repeal movement organizations had the kinds of financial resources needed for extended litigation, NARAL leaders did have network connections to civil liberties organizations and individual lawyers as well as to the Association for the study of Abortion. Lawrence Lader helped recruit Cyril Means-whom he knew from Harvard University where they both had been students (interview with Lawrence Lader, 1984)-to work on a litigation strategy. Roy Lucas, a lawyer who wrote an important article making a constitutional case for abortion rights (see Rubin, 1987:44), was also at one time a member of NARAL’s legal committee. A number o lawyers, including Cyril Means and Sarah Weddington, who argued the “Roe v. Wade” case before the Supreme Court, worked together on a legal strategy (interview with Lawrence Lader, 1984; Faux, 1988).
    The litigation strategy was not, then, strictly a movement initiative, but was carried out by a combination of support from established organizations, movement organizations, and individual abortion rights lawyers. Organizations such as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Law Center for Constitutional rights lent valuable resourced to the development of a legal strategy (see Lader, 1973; Rubin, 1987). As noted in Chapter 1, the Association for the Study of Abortion was important in funding Mean’s work on the legal question of abortion, which was cited in the 1973 Supreme Court decision, and in providing access to expert advice on abortion litigation. The abortion movement was critical, however, in nourishing support for bold initiatives in the courts at a time when organizations like the ASA favored a more cautious approach (see Faux, 1988)
    • pp.35-36

"The surprising history of abortion in the United States” (2013-01-17)


Steenland, Sally, "The surprising history of abortion in the United States”. CNN. (2013-01-17).

  • It may be surprising for some to find out that in the years before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, clergy were among the staunchest supporters of women seeking an abortion. Twenty-one ministers and rabbis created the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion, an underground network that counseled women and led them to compassionate, competent doctors who provided abortion care. Although the network had only a handful of clergy at first, it grew to about 1,400 clergy operating on the East Coast during the 1960s to serve women from across the nation.
    Rev. Howard Moody -- who was born in Texas, lived in New York, and died in 2012 at age 91 -- created the network and considered it one of his most important ministries. Women "came from all over the country," he told an interviewer in 2001. "They came by plane and train, and bus, and car." Women were desperate and needed help. "It was the most humiliating, frightening prospect for women that you can imagine," Moody said. He'd seen women die from botched illegal abortions and was stirred by compassion to help them.
  • A few years after the Roe decision, a number of religious organizations voiced support for the decision, even as they acknowledged the moral complexity of abortion and honored the sanctity of life. Their views were articulated in an ecumenical study document on abortion published in 1978 and discussed in a recent article on AlterNet.
    In the study document, American Baptist Churches said that, "Abortion should be a matter of personal decision." The American Lutheran Church agreed, recognizing the "freedom and responsibility of individuals to make their own choices in light of the best information available to them and their understanding of God's will for their lives."
    The Church of the Brethren voiced support in the document for women who, "after prayer and counseling, believe abortion is the least destructive alternative available to them." The Brethren took this position so that women could "make their decision openly, honestly, without the suffering imposed by an uncompromising community."
    What is even more surprising than the nuanced views of these faith communities, however, is the early support for Roe from the Southern Baptist Convention. Although they are currently among the fiercest opponents of abortion, Southern Baptists supported the 1973 ruling. From their early days, Southern Baptists have been fervent believers in religious liberty and saw Roe v. Wade in this light. If the government could tell a woman what to do with her body, they reasoned, it could also tell Baptists what they could -- or couldn't -- do with their religion.
    How things have changed. In the early 1980s, the Republican Party wooed and won the support of millions of religious conservatives, and those nuanced theological truths got buried under a political campaign that claimed God-driven opposition to abortion. Conservatives even altered texts of the Bible to fit their rigid antiabortion stance.
  • The 1978 ecumenical study document articulated the inherent value of the fetus and the importance of reducing the need for abortion. It also held up values of humility, freedom, justice, balance, compassion and responsibility.
    As we envision a future of health and reproductive justice for all women, those values are more important than ever. We can add to them the words of a just-released affirmation on faith and reproductive justice from CAP's Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute. It is a credo of belief in the dignity of all God's people and a pledge to act -- individually and collectively -- so that all women can flourish and fulfill their God-given potential as individuals and as parents.

"Abortion Reform in Washington State - HistoryLink.org" (2017)


Cassandra Tate, "Abortion Reform in Washington State - HistoryLink.org". www.historylink.org. Retrieved October 9, 2017.

  • Women as well as doctors played a prominent role in the movement to decriminalize abortion in Washington in the late 1960s. However, the impetus and initial direction came from medical providers, seeking simply to enlarge the legal space in which physicians could perform abortions. Eventually, feminists recast the debate to emphasize women’s rights to control their own bodies; but in the early years, the focus was on the rights of doctors to practice medicine without interference. “I guess it would be fair to say we were less concerned about women’s rights than women’s health,” said Lee Minto, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Seattle-King County from 1967 until 1993 (Minto Interview).
  • Minto was among the first of a group of people to join what became the Citizens’ Abortion Study Group, which grew out of Goldenberg’s discussions with his colleagues about “the problem of abortion.” The group met regularly for more than a year, exploring the moral, ethical, and political issues involved in a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
  • “We brought in people from various disciplines,” Goldenberg said, “doctors, lawyers, professors, researchers, parents, police — whoever seemed to have an interest. Whatever fund of knowledge and values we could come into contact with, we tried to enlist them in the group, if not as a regular member at least as a resource person.” By the summer of 1968, the group had drafted a proposed amendment to the law and was seeking endorsements from key organizations, beginning with the Washington State Medical Association. Shortly thereafter, the group changed its name, to Washington Citizens for Abortion Reform (WCAR). The members had decided “we no longer wanted to be a study group but an action group,” Goldenberg said. “We had reached a consensus that the law needed to be changed.”

“From Choice to Reproductive Justice: De Constitutionalizing Abortion Rights" (2009)


West R (2009). “From Choice to Reproductive Justice: De Constitutionalizing Abortion Rights". Yale Law Journal. 118: 1394–1432.

  • The preferred moral foundations of the abortion right created in Roe v. Wade and its progeny continue to shift, from marital and medical privacy, to women’s equality, to individual liberty or dignity, and back, in the minds of both the Supreme Court Justices and the pro-choice advocates and legal scholars that have argued or celebrated these famous cases. What has not shifted is the commitment of the pro-choice community to the right itself, and to the propriety of its judicial origin. Legal abortion, according to this near-universal pro-choice consensus, is and should be an individual, constitutional right protected against political winds, rather than simply good policy reflected in a state’s laws, and it is therefore entirely fitting that we look to the courts, and to the Supreme Court in particular, for its articulation and enforcement. It is the work of the courts and their actors—judges, lawyers, litigants, amici, judicial clerks, and academic commentators—to orate the basis of this important individual right, to develop its contours, and to expand or contract it when appropriate—to subject it in effect to the ordinary and extraordinary processes of constitutional adjudication.
    • p.1396
  • This Essay tabulates some of the costs to feminist ideals that are produced by our reliance on the creation of an individual right as the conceptual vehicle for legal abortion, and our reliance on ad judication as the strategic vehicle for the right’s development and justification. I will argue that while the court- focused methods and the various “choice-based” arguments put forward by the pro-choice advocacy community have jointly secured for individuals a fairly robust constitutional right to legal abortion, those same arguments have ill served not only progressive politics broadly conceived, but also have ill served women, both narrowly, in terms of our reproductive lives and needs, and more generally. I ultimately will urge a broader political argument for reproductive justice in women’s lives that embraces, but does not center upon, rights-based claims, and for a reorientation of legal resources to secure those claims away from the judicial realm and to state and federal legislative arenas.
    • pp.1396-1397
  • None of this, however—Roe’s perceived vulnerability, its consequences, or the truth it partially expresses—justifies the relative dearth of critical inquiry by pro-choice scholars into the costs of either Roe’s genesis in the Court or its various stated rationales. First, with respect to both the decision’s vulnerability and its efficacy, the goal of the pro-choice movement should be women’s access to legal and safe abortion, not preservation of a right that may be increasingly hollow. Of course, there is a danger that Roe could be overturned (although perhaps smaller than the pro-choice community claims), but there is also a danger with the road we are on: we preserve the right, while growing numbers of women across large swaths of the country lose access to the service. With Roe on the books, we are nevertheless witnessing a gradual diminution in the availability of abortion for poor, teenaged, and rural women, as state legislatures pass, and the Court upholds, first funding restrictions, 24 then parental notification requirements, and then waiting periods. The threat to legal, safe, affordable abortion is not so much that the Court may overturn Roe, but that abortion will become less and less available, because of the impact of legislative and political decisions made far from the Supreme Court’s doors. Either way, the challenge to legal and safe abortion comes primarily from state politics and only secondarily from court action. Fixation on the Court and the narrowing constitutional right it has created as a way to secure legal abortion is just counterproductive.
    • pp.1402-1403
  • [S]econd, and aside from the growing doctrine that cuts against funding, even a purely negative right, assuming it exists, might be better secured through what is now sometimes called political, popular, or legislative constitutionalism, rather than through the adjudicated Constitution as interpreted by courts. That is, a right to abortion might be better understood to be a part of our constitutional self understanding that is achieved through political and legislative victories, rather than adjudicative pronouncement. It would not be the first time a right would be better secured politically rather than judicially—think of the “right” to social security, or the “right” to be free of a military draft, or for that matter women’s right to equality itself. No Supreme Court decision ever secured any of these in constitutional doctrine, yet they seem at least as secure against political change as the various unenumerated rights the Court has discovered or created. A woman’s right to legal abortion likewise might be better inferred from contemporary understandings of equality and citizenship than from any constitutional language or configuration of past cases that a court is likely to recognize as authoritative. This is, at least, a possibility we ought to consider. The academic-feminist attachment not only to Roe, but to its origination in the courts, and our resistance to even the suggestion that we have become overly reliant upon courts, precludes our ability to do so.
    • pp.1403-1404
  • [C]onstitutionalizing this particular right to choose simultaneously legitimates—in both of the senses noted above—the lack of public support given parents in fulfilling their caregiving obligations. By giving pregnant women the choice to opt out of parenting by purchasing an abortion, we render parenting a market commodity, and thereby systematically legitimate the various baselines to which she agrees when she opts in: an almost entirely privatized system of childcare, a mixed private and public but prohibitively expensive healthcare system, and a publicly provided education system that delivers a product, the quality of which is spotty at best and disastrously inadequate at worst. Narrowly, by giving her the choice, her consent legitimates the parental burden to which she has consented. A woman who is poor and chooses to parent will exacerbate her poverty by so choosing, particularly if she “chooses” to parent without a partner. If she “chooses” to parent a special needs child, she will have little assistance for the extraordinary educational, health, and care needs of her child. If she chooses to parent without a partner while she herself lives in poverty, she likewise has so chosen. The choice-based arguments for abortion rights strengthen the impulse to simply leave her with the consequences of her bargain. She has chosen this route, so it is hers to travel alone. To presume otherwise would be paternalistic. The woman’s “choice” mutes any attempt to make her claims for assistance cognizable.
    • p.1411
  • More generally, the choice rhetoric of Roe undercuts the arguments for the development of what I have elsewhere called “caregiver rights”—the rights of caregivers, women and men both, to a level of public assistance for their caregiving work. This has consequences for everyone who spends substantial parts of their adult lives caring for the needs of dependents, whether small children or the elderly, and who incurs substantial costs by virtue of so doing. Pregnant women, parents of small children, and the grown children of elderly parents, by virtue of their caregiving obligations, are not capable of the sort of independence that is so highly valued in a culture that prizes rugged individualism above all else. Caregivers are less independent, and therefore less autonomous, than those with no such obligations. Someone tied to the needs of others is that much less free to live the wealth-maximizing, self-regarding, autonomous life presupposed by, and valorized by, a free-market economy in the first place. The right to an abortion gives women a right not to be a caregiver, but at the cost of rhetorically making the difficulties of caregiving all the harder to publicly share, should she opt for it. For privileged women, this is not such a terrible trade off: an economically secure woman gets a right to terminate a pregnancy, and can more or less put up with the bolstered legitimacy of an overly privatized system of health and child care. She can exit the paid labor market for a few years to raise her child, or she can split those obligations with a supportive spouse or partner and continue to work part- time, or she can delegate to others the caregiving work for substantially less than she herself earns so that she need not interrupt her own wage labor. She can, through one of these routes, simply absorb the expense of these choices. The woman only marginally capable of supporting even herself, however, faces a choice between parenting and severe impoverishment, on the one hand, and forgoing children on the other. Are we truly comfortable, morally, with a world that we have created, in which only rich people can parent satisfactorily? Is it a just world, in which poor people are told that perhaps they really should not have children, particularly if they cannot find someone to marry first? The sheer cruelty of this is what the legitimating rhetoric of choice, and of individual rights to privacy, liberty, and dignity, all mask.
    • pp.1411-1412
  • The constitutional right to abort a fetus, and the right to be left alone on which it is built, is as hollow as it is in part because it represents just such a truncation of the aspirational feminist vision of reproductive justice from which it was forged. For most of the first two-thirds of the century just passed, legal abortion was understood by feminists who sought it as a component of a conception of women’s equality that also included a demand for a robust public role in childcare, heightened protections against rape and domestic violence, equal employment opportunities, equal pay for comparable worth, and inclusion of women in the public spheres of politics and governance. Abortion rights were a branch on a tree, the trunk of which was the aspiration of equal citizenship and whatever social reimagining of basic structures of work and governance would be necessary to achieve it.
    At least according to contemporary social and legal historians of the time period, advocacy for legal abortion was in effect severed from its trunk largely because of the politics surrounding the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) movement and then transplanted into the quite different terrain of individual liberty. It then became its own “tree,” rooted not so much in women’s equality, but in marital, medical, and sexual privacy. Without second guessing the then-compelling reasons for doing so, it is clear in retrospect that this re-rooting strategy carried costs beyond even the legitimation and democratic costs outlined above—it also carried costs for our understanding of what an abortion right is and why we should have one. Understood as one of a series of Supreme Court cases, Roe v. Wade and the right it articulates become a chapter in a narrative authored, developed, and controlled by the Court, rather than a part of a narrative of women’s rights authored, developed, and controlled by feminists, progressives, or women’s rights devotees. Abortion rights are a part of a story consisting of Supreme Court cases, not a part of a story consisting of political victories for women’s equality, healthcare, or poor families.
    • pp.1422-1423
  • Pro-choice policies, from the outset, should have been generated by ordinary politics, respectful and reflective of a sex-friendly popular morality, and expressed ultimately in ordinary law. The community of advocates and scholars that held those commitments should have looked to the public, legislators, educators, and social structures, rather than to hoary constitutional principles expressed by not particularly trustworthy oracles, for their meaningful articulation, elaboration, and enforcement. The moment for developing such a politics without interference from the Court, however, has long passed. Nevertheless, both sides—pro-life as well as pro-choice—might yet reclaim at least a degree of such a focus, each from where they now stand. There are particularly compelling reasons for the pro-choice community to do so. Political arguments for reproductive justice, made in political fora and divorced from the adjudicative context, might not carry the specific costs of rights discourse theorized by critical writers and highlighted above. First, they need not rest on a commitment to negative rights and libertarian premises. Women need legal abortion not to ward off undue state interference, but in order to live better and more integrated lives in their families and workplaces both. And to live those better and more integrated lives, they require both reproductive choice and better support for their caregiving obligations, as do the men with whom they might partner. Viewed as pragmatic needs for well-led lives, rather than principled demands for rights, better supports for childcare and legal abortion are both components of an as yet unrealized reproductive justice. Only when elevated to the level of constitutional and timeless principle does the argument for one component seem to undercut the case for the other.
    Nor should these arguments be put forward in the context of appeals to individual antimajoritarian rights that have the effect, whether intended or unintended, of undercutting the institutional structures of majoritarian democracy. Arguments for legal abortion have strong majoritarian appeal, and are at least as amenable to public deliberation, persuasion, and compromise as the ordinary fodder of political debate. Arguments for legal abortion in legislative and public arenas need not be made in ways that limit the movement for reproductive justice to this most individualistic and self-abdicating “right to an abortion.” They need not be “truncated.” Re-politicizing reproductive justice arguments, in other words, might not carry the costs of rights-focused constitutional rhetoric.
    • p.1431

“After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate” (2015)


Mary Ziegler, “After Roe: The Lost History of the Abortion Debate”, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2015

  • Jackson’s changing rhetoric forms part of the history of the relationship between the abortion-rights and women’s movements. In the view of influential feminist legal scholars, Roe v. Wade weakened the ability of both movements to campaign effectively for the rights of the poor and women of color for whom Jackson spoke. Scholars and advocates such as Catherine MacKinnon, Rhonda Copelon, and Martha Minow have suggested that Roe’s privacy framework paved the way for laws and judicial decisions denying access to public facilities or funding for abortions, constraining “the emerging jurisprudence of privacy within a framework that produced inequalities.” Viewed in this way, Roe is supposed to have “undercut . . . arguments . . . for the rights of caretakers” and served “to siphon off deeper challenges to our scientistic, capitalist society.”
    • pp.95-96
  • We often equate the abortion-rights movement too easily with the women’s movement, assuming a strong and stable relationship between the two. For this reason, it is easy to believe that roe v. Wade exacerbated tensions between the women’s movement and people of color. To the extent that the extent that the Ro Court talked about women, the justices focused on privacy from the State. In defending the decision, then, feminists supposedly deemphasized the needs of poor, often non-white women, privileging freedom over government support.
    However, by not adequately capturing movement redefinitions of Roe, scholars have often oversimplified the relationship between feminism and abortion-rights activism. Before the decision came down, pragmatists within the abortion-rights movement played a dominant role in defining the movement’s message, identity and agenda. Some movement members embraced the women’s movement and its substantive agenda. Other activists-many of whom had connections to the medical community or to the movement for population control-advanced the arguments thought most likely to succeed in court or in the political arena. In either case, instead of linking abortion to rights for women, leading advocates primarily described the procedure as a means to an end: the prevention of deaths suffered during dangerous illegal abortions or the reduction of domestic population growth.
    In the mid-1970s, however, feminists gradually made Roe a symbol of the relationship between the abortion-rights and women’s movements. Far from constraining feminists, the Supreme Court’s decision helped them to renegotiate the racial and gender politics of abortion. Beginning in the later 1960s, diverse supporters of abortion rights contested the meaning of legal abortion and its relationship to race and sex equality. The Supreme Court did not dictate the terms of this battle. In part, abortion-rights leaders responded to the changing politics of civil rights in the late 1960s and early 1970s- the rise of the black-power movement, the mobilization of feminists of color, and growing controversy about population control. As pro-lifers championed bans on abortion funding, feminists could more easily present the opposition as indifferent to the well-being of poor and non-white women.
    Nonetheless, feminist activists deliberately used the Supreme Court decision to gain the upper hand in internal struggles. Projecting new meaning onto the Court’s decision, feminists convincingly argued that legal abortion reflected the importance of equality on the basis of race and sex. As the abortion-rights and women’s movement grew closer, activists redefined their cause and its relationship to racial justice.
    • pp.96-97
  • By the late 1960s, as the abortion issue came to the fore, the abortion-rights and pro-life movements found themselves immersed in a new racial politics. Influential population controllers began endorsing abortion as a tool for curbing birth rates. At the same time, the population-control movement enjoyed unprecedented popular support, public funding, and congressional influence. The basis for an alliance between population controllers and abortion-rights leaders fell into place.
    • pp.97-98
  • Some movement members, including prominent feminists, found value in the demands for sexual freedom and environmental stewardship often articulated by younger population controllers. More often, abortion-rights leaders wanted to draw on the popularity of population control in building support for their own cause. In turn, some population controllers believed that legal abortion would help disguise a pending demographic crisis.
    However, the alliance with population controllers heightened the racial tensions surrounding abortion. Often for strategic reasons, supporters of abortion rights emphasized the policy benefits of legalizing abortion, including lower welfare expenses, a downturn in the number of illegitimate births, and a slower pace of population growth. These arguments understandably concerned civil-rights leaders, who believed that the abortion-rights movement had effectively promised a decrease in the number of minority children born in the United States.
    Conversely, with civil-rights politics in flux, pro-lifers found new opportunities to appeal to racial minorities. Black nationalism had deep roots in civil-rights politics. But beginning in the late 1960s, the mainstream civil-rights movement took on a new identity, centering on a militant rejection of the racial status quo. Some prominent black-power activists took aim at the movement for abortion reform. Pointing to the rhetoric of population controllers, black-power activists questioned whether the white majority would use abortion to wipe out people of color. Pro-lifers fueled these fears, arguing that legal abortion would be a “white man’s’ solution to the problems of poverty and race.”
    • p.98
  • For those seeking to make abortion-rights activism synonymous with feminism, the influence of population politics proved disturbing. Time and again, feminists-who played a crucial role in efforts to legalize abortion-urged their colleagues to build a closer relationship with the women’s movement. Treating abortion s a method of population control seemed to grant women reproductive freedom only when doing so would benefit the larger society. Believing that women could not enjoy equal citizenship without fertility control, feminists argued instead that all women had a right to abortion irrespective of its consequences.
    • p.98
  • The battles of the pre-Roe period testify to the complexity of the relationship between the movements for women’s liberation and abortion rights. Before 1973, partly because of the ascendancy of population politics, the relationship remained fluid and less close than we might believe.
    Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to draw too close a connection between abortion-rights activists and population controllers. Abortion reformers made a variety of arguments unrelated to out-of-control birth rates. For their part, population controllers rarely prioritized abortion, instead focusing on voluntary-sterilization initiatives, maternal-health programs, and domestic or international contraception measures Some population groups never endorsed abortion reform.
    Before 1973, however, claims about population control, like contentions about public health, became a prominent part of the abortion rights arsenal. Many of the older leaders of abortion-rights organizations had ties to the population controllers. Moreover, Congress viewed uncurbed demographic growth as a serious problem, and major donors like the Scaife Foundation made population control a priority. Leading figures in the movement, like Hugh Moore and John D. Rockefeller III, provided financial support to state-level campaigns to legalize abortion. Nor did abortion-legalization groups discount the political appeal of the population arguments. Similar claims found favor with a broad spectrum of politicians, judges, and members of the public.
    • p.99
  • Abortion-rights groups often adopted population-control arguments as an alternative to those involving liberty and equality for women. Some supporters of abortion rights had no independent interest in the women’s movement or its demands. Many other activists, however, sympathizes with or even focused on the struggle for women’s liberation. For movement pragmatists, however, women’s rights claims seemed risky. In the early 1970s the women’s movement remained poorly understood and, in some cases, unpopular. For example, the 1971 Virginia Slims American Women’s Opinion Poll found that only 42 percent of respondents favored a movement to “strengthen or change women’s status in society.” Moreover, the women’s movement pushed not only for abortion but also for equal employment, changes in the portrayal of women in the media, and publicly funded child care. Invoking women’s liberation appeared likely to create the kind of controversy the movement could ill afford.
    Just the same, overpopulation rhetoric made the politics of abortion more racially charged. Civil-rights activists took issue with some population controllers’ ties to segregationists or eugenic legal reformers. The focus of international overpopulation and domestic family planning programs-many of which applied primarily to poor, non-white individuals-caused further alarm. When New York repealed its abortion laws, a disproportionate number of African-American women sought out the procedure reinforcing arguments that abortion decimate non-white populations.
    For this reason, some abortion-rights activists took a strong stand against their movement’s emphasis on population control. Some feminists found such claims objectionable in principle. Still other activists worried that population-control claims would alienate people of color, especially given past connections between supporters of eugenic and some population-control programs. Before 1973, because of these conflicts, the members of leading abortion-rights organizations sometimes found themselves deeply at odds with one another.
    • p.103-104
  • The move to legalize abortion formed one part of PP-WP’s domestic agenda Since 1965, Planned Parenthood workers provided birth control services in poor neighborhoods, often working under the auspices of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Earlier in the twentieth century, Sanger had consistently worked to separate birth control and abortion, presenting the former as a way to prevent the evils of the latter. By the late 1960s, however, organization leaders reconsidered this position. Prominent members of the organization, including Dr. Alan Guttmacher, worked with the Association for the Study of Abortion (ASA), a group that had led the call for abortion reform. Mary S. Calderone, a leading Planned Parenthood member and sex educator, argued that illegal abortion had created a major public health crisis. Citing “the cold shoulders” women confronted when seeing an abortion, she criticized “the social ostracism and punitive attitude toward those who are greatly in need of concrete help and sympathetic understanding.” Feminist-leaning members, including Harriet Pilpel, asserted that “in order to insure a complete and thorough birth control program, abortion must be made available as a legal right to all women who request it.
    • p.105
  • At a 1968 meeting, 650 representatives of Planned Parenthood affiliated across the nation endorsed the repeal of all abortion restrictions. The organization’s medical advisory committee had initially presented abortion as a matter o women’s rights, suggesting that every woman had “the right and responsibility” to “decide when and whether to have a child.” Later, however, the group’s 100-member board of directors stressed that the physician, more than the woman, should have the final say, taking into account the woman’s “social, economic, and cultural environment.” When Planned Parenthood issued its final statement, the organization presented abortion primarily as a “medical procedure.” While insisting that abortion constituted a “right for every patient,” the statement mostly stayed away from feminist rhetoric.
    The racial politics of the Planned Parenthood endorsement proved to be tricky, particularly given the organization’s ties to the population control movement. Planned Parenthood made its announcement in the wake of comments by a Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons (NAACP), suggesting that abortion reformers intended “to keep the Negro birth rate as low as possible.” At the 1968 meeting, to counter accusations of racism, the group selected Dr. Jerome Holland, an African-American sociologist, as its new chairman. Holland insisted that anyone drawing a close connection between racism and abortion repeal was “not aware of the real meaning of family planning and its uses.”
    • pp.105-106
  • In defending the repeal of all abortion restrictions, Robin Elliott, Planned Parenthood’s Director of Information and Education, primarily stressed arguments that he thought would work the best. He put out materials claiming that illegal abortion posed an intolerable risk to women’s health. Other pamphlets prominently displayed images of women who had died because of botched operations. Elliott’s brochures contended that legal abortion had resulted in lower rates of child abuse and illegitimacy and lower welfare costs.
    • p.106
  • White and non-white feminists recognized the costs of tying abortion to population control. If African-Americans viewed abortion reform as a tool to curb birth rates, feminists would struggle to win the trust of the civil rights movement. Moreover, women of color more often lacked access to reproductive health services-a problem only exacerbated by anxieties about race and population control.
    The costs of tying legal abortion to lower birth rates increased in the later 1970s, when the very idea of population politics became more controversial. First, at the 1974 UN Conference on World Population in Bucharest, Hungary, leaders of developing countries accused the population-control movement of manipulating their citizens while ignoring the true cause of poverty in the developing world. News of compulsory sterilizations at home and in India convinced many that the population-control movement exploited the poor. These scandals made it seem too risky for population controllers to immerse themselves in the abortion battle of the mid-to late 1970s.
    • p.117
  • After 1973 major organizations, including Hugh Moore’s PCC and John D. Rockefeller III’s Population Council, publicly endorsed legal abortion for the first time. Nonetheless, during the mid-to late 1970s, population organizations generally kept out of domestic abortion politics. In the mid-1970s, women like then-executive director of the PCC, Phyllis Piotrow, came to play a more pivotal role in the internal workings of the PCC. Piotrow, who had strong interests in international development and family planning, did not strongly identify with the women’s movement or its demands for reproductive rights. By contrast, her protégée, Sharon Camp, had sought out an illegal abortion in Mexico during her senior year in college, nearly dying due to complications from the procedure. This experience crystallized Camp’s interest in reproductive issues.
    When Camp began working for the PCC in the mid-1970s, she helped Piotrow to make women’s rights claims a more central part of demands for international family planning funding. For example, in 1977, when Jimmy Carter announced his opposition to Medicaid funding for abortion, Piotrow spoke out against the decision, describing abortion as a “human right.”
    However, Piotrow and Camp agreed that the population-control movement could not afford to be on the front lines of the abortion wars. Instead, for the PCC, opposition to abortion became a convenient argument for family planning funding. In July 1976, the group released a report indicating that thirty to fifty-five million babies were aborted each year. Marily Brant Chandler, a member of the PCC Board of Directors, argued in the New York Times: “So let the issues in the United States be expanded family planning delivery systems and better and earlier family-life education in the schools and homes, not abortion.
    • pp.117-118

See also