by Gloria Feldt on June 3rd, 2008
in Reproductive Health and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe by Waldo Fielding M.D., in today’s New York Times is a must read and must share. Fielding is 80; his generation of doctors knows the real stories about the injustices of illegal abortion.  An excerpt:

With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside. When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe “bad old days.” Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals. There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion…

Now it’s up to the generation now present to make the coat hanger (photos of which accompnied the article) a symbol of women’s empowerment rather than victimization.

The importance of electing a president in November who understands and will vigorously advance women’s human rights to reproductive self-determination and moral autonomy is of paramount importance. But we must also continue to stay engaged in the political process, asserting clearly to the President over and over that we expect him or her to make good on campaign rhetoric about supporting a woman’s right to to make her own childbearing decisions and to have access to the health care  and information that makes rights meaningful. It is too late to fight back against the incursions that have chipped away at reproductive choice and justice. The situation calls for us to fight forward with a proactive agenda, such as I proposed in The War on Choice.

A reminder: Sen. John McCain has a 100% anti-choice voting record.

Both Sens. Clinton and Obama have 100% pro-choice voting records since they’ve been in the Senate.

Clinton is a sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act which would codify reproductive rights as civil rights and track the major provisions of Roe. She is also a prime sponsor of the Prevention First Act, which would provide additional funding and therefore access to birth control services, among other preventive education and health services. Sen. Obama is a cosponsor of this bill.

These are the two most significant pieces of proactive legislation aimed not just to restore lost access and rights but to expand them to a point where women are assured both. And that larger vision is where this debate must go.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.


  1. stacy says:

    Unfortunately, I know for a fact having talked to people about it, that many people are taking Roe for granted and they think that because it has been the law during their entire lifetime (and most of mine), that it will never *really* be overruled- I’ve heard that sentiment more times than I can count. Look at how many times the SCOTUS has tacked on yet another barrier to abortion relating to funding, counseling/informed consent, parental notification laws etc. (thank you, Sandra Day O’Connor) and it’s hardly considered news- many people have no idea just how limited their so-called ‘fundamental right’ has become.

    I am waiting for McCain to start getting grilled about this issue in some meaningful way- so far, the mainstream media has been busy trumpeting him as a ‘maverick’ in the GOP and have not highlighted (all that much) how anti-choice he really is or the implications of that position with respect to appealing to voters in the general election. If a majority of Americans think Roe should remain good law, shouldn’t McCain’s outside-the-mainstream views on the issue be headline news?

    I think it’s up to us to keep the media from downplaying the issue of reproductive rights and not let them continue giving McCain a pass on this issue- sometimes even when the media cover the conservative position, they make it sound more benign by claiming that the GOP isn’t against taking away this fundamental right to abortion, it’s just that they “want to let the states decide”- this sort of framing of the issue is totally dishonest and misleading and they should be called to account for it.

    Also, I’d love to hear someone ask this question of John McCain during a presidential debate- “since you expressed your opposition to abortion rights, if Roe is overruled then do you also believe that the government can interfere in a unmarried woman’s right (or even a married women) to access/use birth control?” The question should be asked because why not see how far McCain is willing to take this and if he really understands exactly how far back in the evolutionary process his new best friends in the radical, evangelical right, want women to go – because if Roe is overruled based on the view of Scalia and the other conservative activists on the Court, a view which essentially says there is no such thing as substantive due process as the basis for a fundamental right, then shouldn’t the whole line of Roe cases be over-ruled?

    I wonder how millions of more moderate, independent-leaning Americans would like to hear that McCain’s party-the party of “small government”- basically doesn’t believe in a right to privacy and is willing to make government big enough to stick its nose in everyone’s business?

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