Abortion without Apology: A Radical History for the 1990s

By Ninia Baehr | Go to book overview

4
Lessons for the 1990s

Twenty years ago abortion had the power to spark a social movement. It is doing the same thing today. If we understand our heritage, we will have a better chance of drawing on the strengths—and avoiding the pitfalls—of the pioneers of the abortion movement.

One of the most important things the abortion movement did for women was show them that they could take direct action on their own behalf. Women were not just victims of the problem of illegal abortion. They were also part of the solution to the problem of illegal abortion. Through working on abortion, many women learned that they could help themselves. The basic idea behind self-help is that we don't have to convince someone in authority to do something for us. We don't have to wait for permission. Sometimes we can claim the power we want by acting as if we already have it. The philosophy of self-help can be applied not only to abortion but also to other issues where the state, the "system," or "the way things are" disempowers women.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, women worked with one another to define problems and to provide solutions. Historically, it has been through examining our own experience, providing our own analysis of oppression, and formulating our own plans for activism, that women have become empowered to work for our own liberation. This process, called "consciousness-raising," was the backbone of the women's liberation movement. Irene Peslikis of Redstockings said:

We really knew that [consciousness-raising] was where the truth was. And it was not only where the truth was. It was the best way to organize women, because it allowed them to perceive the truth themselves about their own situation...Imagine what it was like for me to have been this closet feminist, basically, for practically my whole life, and all of a sudden to hear there's such a thing as women's liberation. Just the term turns me on. I know that's true. And then finding this group and walking into a room full of women who are just like me.

-51-

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Abortion without Apology: A Radical History for the 1990s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Abortion Without Apology - A Radical History for the 1990s *
  • Illustration Credits *
  • Table of Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Army of Three - Making Abortion Public 7
  • 2: Woman-Controlled Abortion - The Self-Help Health Movement 21
  • 3: Speak Truth to Power - The New York Fight 31
  • 4: Lessons for the 1990s 51
  • 5: Organizing for the Future 61
  • Resources 63
  • Bibliography 65
  • About South End Press *
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