Women who experienced first hand the injustices that made up the daily lives of American women before the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the U.S., surround us daily. These women are our mothers, our grandmothers, our neighbors, and our teachers, many of them unassuming and too humble to realize the essential role that they played in the freedoms that we enjoy today.
My mother is one of these women. Her current life as a suburb-dweller and family therapist combined with her excessive modesty hardly scream abortion activist. But her role in the movement has offered me a much greater connection to the issue of safe abortion.
My mother worked at a free clinic as an abortion counselor in the late 1960s and early 1970s when abortion was illegal. What she most remembers about the experience is how afraid women were and how powerless they felt over their bodies.
“Women were performing abortions on themselves on a daily basis,” she recalls. Many were seriously injured or died because they had no choice but to take matters, literally, into their own hands. She spoke of the difficulty of getting a woman to a legal, out-of-state abortion clinic before 1973. She remembers the anxiety in the air, as the clinic staff called names off of a list of women who would be sent to New York by bus, where abortion was legalized in 1970. This process was complicated and dangerous for the women and the volunteers involved, but they did what they had to do without flinching, because they firmly believed in our right to choose.
Despite my mother’s knowledge and care in the realm of reproductive health, she was totally unprepared for a pregnancy that occurred when the Dalkon Shield,* a form of intrauterine device (IUD), failed her in 1974 one year after Roe was passed. She has no doubt that the excellent care that she received from the staff at Planned Parenthood while undergoing the procedure may not have been possible just one year earlier.
Today, 39 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, several new and proposed laws in Pennsylvania threaten to send us back to the days of unsafe and unavailable abortion care. Let’s not sit back and let legislators take away the rights that my mother fought so hard for. We owe it to our daughters and granddaughters to fight back.
*The Dalkon Shield was found to cause severe injury to a disproportionately large percentage of its users which and led to numerous lawsuits and juries awarded millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages to thousands of women.
Katherine Bisanzis pursuing a master’s degree in Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and interning at the ACLU-PA’s Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project.
This post is part of the We’ve Had Enough Campaign’s Roe v. Wade Blog Carnival. See other posts on the importance of Roe and the attacks against women’s health here: http://www.wevehadenoughpa.org/blog.html