by Mary Lou Greenberg
The tragedy of Savita Halappanaver who died on Oct. 28, 2012 after being denied an abortion in a hospital in Ireland reminds us that all women suffer from circumstances that cross national boundaries, from social and religious conventions, outmoded ideas and societal norms, united by “just” being female.
From its 1983 inception as a newsletter of Choices Women’s Medical Center, founded by Merle Hoffman, through the 16 years it grew into a nationally acclaimed print magazine, and into the nearly-five years of its rebirth as a quarterly online publication, On the Issues Magazine has covered and analyzed the struggle for and around abortion and how reproductive freedom is essential to women’s lives. Below is a selection of some of our previous articles that shed light on the past as well as the continuing battle today, 40 years after Roe.
Savita died when she miscarried a wanted pregnancy in a country where abortion is outlawed. Seventeen-year-old Becky Bell died from an illegal abortion on Sept. 16, 1988 in a state that required parental consent.
“When Becky went to Planned Parenthood in Indianapolis, she learned that she couldn’t get an abortion without the consent of at least one parent or a waiver from a judge. But she couldn’t bear to tell her mother or father. And word on the street was that it was useless to go before the judge who heard these cases because he was antichoice and hardly ever granted waivers. Evidently unable to find a believable excuse to stay away from her home long enough to go to neighboring Kentucky where parental involvement was not required, Becky Bell, as thousands of women and girls before her, was forced to seek an illegal abortion. “Several days after Becky returned from a party feeling “sick,” her parents took her to a hospital. The next day she died. She never told her parents or anyone else what happened. What is known is that Becky developed pneumonia which was brought on by a massive infection, the result of an illegal, possibly self-induced, abortion.” Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
In many editorials, including this one from 1988, Merle Hoffman has chronicled the battle around abortion and the profound questions and challenges it poses.
“When I founded Choices 27 years ago, women’s health as a discipline, as a practice and a vision, simply did not exist. Legal abortion brought women’s health care out of the closet, radicalized the status of women in society and revolutionized their relationship with the health care establishment. “It was a heady time — a brave new world where one woman’s unique yet collective experience of an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy intersected with a new feminist politic of freedom and responsibility. We inhabited a place where we made women’s lives matter; a time when feminism resonated with risk and spoke to struggle rather than privilege. There were so many firsts” Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
Loretta Ross has powerfully exposed and led opposition to the anti-abortion movement’s targeting African American women.
“…African American women who care about reproductive justice know that the limited membership in the Black anti-abortion movement doesn’t represent our views and we are not fooled into thinking that they care about gender justice for women. In fact, if they had their way, we would be re-enslaved once again, based on our fertility…They tell African American women that we are now responsible for the genocide of our own people. Talk about a ‘blame the victim’ strategy! We are now accused of ‘lynching’ our children in our wombs and practicing white supremacy on ourselves. Black women are again blamed for the social conditions in our communities and demonized by those who claim they only want to save our souls (and the souls of our unborn children). This is what lies on steroids look like.” Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
In 1998, Mary Lou Greenberg traveled to Birmingham, AL the day after a clinic was bombed, a security guard killed and a nurse severely wounded.
“Just as this anti-personnel bomb at the clinic was intended to rip apart bodies, so too was it meant to penetrate people’s minds and emotions with a chilling message: If you provide abortions, if you work at clinics or go to them as clients, you will be a target! …I have traveled to the sites of all the fatal anti-abortion assaults to help organize pro-choice demonstrations against the attacks and to support the clinics. Now, in Birmingham, these bomb shards brought home to me once again, with vivid, gut-wrenching intensity, the seriousness and viciousness of this war.” Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
A powerful poem immortalized the two clinic workers shot and killed in 1995.
Her poem concludes:
Stand up now and say No More.
Stand up now and say We
Stand up and say We will not be ruled
by crazies and killers,
by shotguns and bombs and acid.
We will not dwell in the caves of fear.
We will make each other strong.
We will make each other safe.
There is no other monument. Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
As we go into President Barack Obama’s second term, Gloria Feldt’s article is must reading.
“Insisting that women are moral equals to men is still a big elephant in the room, sometimes even hard for people who identify as pro-choice to confront. Because it’s hard to change a culture while you’re living in it. Harder still to see injustice when it’s all around you, and feminism is an unfinished revolution that aims to change a deeply patriarchal culture from within. “Obama’s Dad-in-Chief response to overturning greater EC access (the old “I don’t want my 11-year-old daughter to get it so I support the age restriction, medical advice be damned”) was presaged by his post election finger wagging at women when he reneged on FOCA: “I think that those who are pro-choice make a mistake when they — if they… suggest that this is simply an issue about women’s freedom and that there’s no other considerations.” Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English
Finally, our entire Winter 2012 edition focused on abortion. We encourage you to check it out.