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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A ‘sucker punch’: some women face setbacks for hard-earned rights

At 88 years old, Gloria Steinem has long been the nation’s most visible feminist and women’s rights advocate. But at 22, she was a scared American in London whose illegal abortion was so unwanted, she actually tried to throw herself down the stairs to end it.

cry v. Her response to the Supreme Court ruling that dismissed Wade is brief: “Clearly,” she wrote in an email message, “without the right of women and men to make decisions about their own bodies, there is no democracy.”

Steinem’s blunt remarks cut to the heart of the despair some opponents are feeling about Friday’s historic rollback of the 1973 case that legalized abortion. If a right so central to the overall fight for women’s equality can be revoked, they ask, what is the point of the progress women have made in public life over the past 50 years?

“One of the things I keep hearing from women is, ‘My daughter will have less rights than I do. And how can that be?'” says Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “If it goes away, what else can go on? It makes everything feel precarious.”

Reproductive freedom was not the only demand for second wave feminism, as the women’s movement of the 60s and 70s became known, but it was certainly one of the most provocative issues along with workplace equality.

The women fighting for those rights endured a surprising decade of progress from 1963 to 1973, including the right to equal pay, the right to birth control, and in 1972 Title IX, which bans discrimination in education. Providing the constitutional right to abortion, closing it a year later was Roe v. Wade.

Many women who identified as feminists at the time had illegal abortions or knew someone who had done so. Steinem, in fact, credits a “speak-out” meeting she attended in her 30s on abortion, the moment she moved from journalism to activism—and eventually to her own covert abortion. felt able to speak about.

“Abortion is very much linked to the women’s movement in this country,” says sociologist Carol Joffe of the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, who studies and teaches the history of abortion. “With better birth control, legal abortion meant that women who were heterosexually active could still participate in public life. This marked the biggest change we have seen in the status of women over the past 50 years. Joffe says that many women like her now feel the right to contraception may be at risk – which she calls “unthinkable.”

One of them is Heather Booth. When she was 20 and a student in Chicago, a male friend asked if she could help her sister get an abortion. It was 1965, and through contacts in the civil rights movement, she found a way to connect a young woman who committed suicide at the prospect of becoming pregnant with a doctor willing to help. She thought it would be a one-off, but Booth co-founded the Jane Collective, an underground group of women who provided safe abortions to those in need. In all, the group underwent about 11,000 abortions in about seven years—a story told in the new documentary “The Janes.”

Booth, now 76, sees the Roe versus Wade turmoil as a chilling challenge to the women’s movement’s victory.

“I think we’re on a knife’s edge,” she says. “On the one hand, it has been 50 years since the status of women in this society has changed,” she continues, recalling that when she was growing up, women were in the “female class” to list only one. Answering job advertisements. Example.

“So there’s been a progress toward greater equality, but … if you ask where we stand, I think we’re really on a knife’s edge in a competition between democracy and freedom, and tyranny, To end the freedom which has been fought for a long time.”

Of course, not every woman feels that abortion has the right to be protected.

Linda Sloan, who has volunteered with her husband over the past five years for the anti-abortion organization A Moment of Hope in Columbia, South Carolina, says she values ​​women’s rights.

“I strongly believe in and support treating women on par with men… (in) job opportunities, pay, respect and many other areas,” she says. She says she has tried to instill those values ​​in her two daughters and two sons, and perpetuated them with her work at two women’s shelters while trying to empower women to make the right choices.

But when it comes to Roe v. Wade, she says, “I believe that the rights of the child in the mother’s womb are equally important. To quote Psalm 139, I believe that God ‘created my internal organs’ and ‘woven me together in my mother’s womb.'”

Elizabeth Kilmartin, like Sloan, volunteers in A Moment of Hope and is very pleased with the court’s decision.

In her younger years she considered herself a feminist and studied women’s history in college. Then, over the years she became deeply opposed to abortion, and no longer considers herself a feminist because she believes the term is co-opted by those on the left. “No woman’s rights have been harmed in the decision to stop killing babies in the womb,” Kilmartin says. “We have all kinds of women in power. Women are no longer being harassed at the workplace. We have a female vice president… it’s ridiculous to think we’re so oppressed.”

Cheryl Lambert falls completely into the opposing camp. The former Wall Street executive, now 65, immediately thought of the benefits she had made earlier in her banking career, becoming the first woman to be named an officer at the institution she worked at. She calls the court’s decision “a sucker punch.”

“My thought was, what era are we living in?” Lambert says. “We are moving backwards. I am angry on behalf of my children and my grandchildren.

Lambert herself needed an abortion as a young mother, when a genetic disease was found in the fetus. “I thought getting an abortion in this country would be difficult, not easy,” she says.

Now, she and many other women fear a return to the dangerous, illegal abortions of the past – and the disproportionate impact on women without the means to travel to abortion-friendly states. Still, many are trying to see a positive side: that as bleak as this moment may seem, change can come through new energy in the ballot box.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” says Carol Tracy of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia.

Steinem also issued a letter of resolution.

“Women have always taken control of our own bodies, and we will continue to do so,” she wrote in her email message. “An unjust court cannot prevent abortion, but it guarantees civil disobedience and disrespect to the court.”


Associated Press reporter MarieClaire Dale contributed to this report.


For complete Andhra Pradesh coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, visit https://apnews.com/hub/abortion.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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