Abortion without Apology: A Radical History for the 1990s

By Ninia Baehr | Go to book overview

2
Woman-Controlled
Abortion

The Self-Help Health Movement

In 1969, Carol Downer, a Los Angeles mother of six, heard on the radio that a group of women had chained themselves to the White House to dramatize their demand for equal rights. Carol wasn't entirely certain what specific rights the women were demanding, but she was excited about the idea that it was possible for women to speak up for themselves, and she decided to attend the next meeting of the National Organization for Women (NOW). She said:

There were quite a number of women there and they had an abortion task force. They had a little form and you indicated what your area of interest was. And since I had had an abortion and really knew how hard it was to locate someone and the whole ordeal, that's what I was most interested in. Lana Clarke Phelan was the chair of that task force, and I understudied her. I basically just trotted around after her and listened to her speak, and that was my training to learn about the history of abortion and to think about it.

California had passed an abortion reform bill in 1967, but legal abortions were still only available to women who could convince a hospital therapeutic abortion committee to give its permission. The Los Angeles chapter of NOW regularly provided referrals to an illegal clinic and some members had begun observing the procedure with an eye to opening an illegal clinic of their own. Carol said:

The first woman that I observed was actually getting an IUD inserted, and for me it was quite mind-boggling because they put the speculum in and I looked and here was this extremely simple, beautiful structure, the cervix, and all of my agonizing and all of my

-21-

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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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