real activism

i know this link has been making the rounds, and that i’ve posted similar things before but the voices of choice website provides links to partial transcripts, links to audio and video files of doctors who provided abortions pre-roe and others who helped women get a safe abortion.

Wendy Chavkin, MD was one step removed from the Jane Collective and regularly lent her apartment to be used in providing a safe abortion, and as a result of that experience was compelled to become a doctor.

Dr. Mildred Hanson says,

“If Roe v. Wade were repealed, I think I’d go right on doing abortions. It isn’t like it was years ago, when I had responsibilities to my children. I think I’d go right on doing abortions. And I would frankly just wait for them to come and get me, because I would want to demonstrate that this is a detriment to the health of women. We’ve already shown that safe, legal abortion has improved the health of American women. Our experience since Roe v. Wade has convinced us so strongly of the need for safe, legal abortion. I feel more strongly about it now than I did in the days before Roe v. Wade. These days, I would go right on doing it. I would wait for the cops to come and take me. Absolutely.”

some of the most interesting and suprising stories are from ministers who were part of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion. Started in New York City it developed into a network of approximately 1,400 rabbis and ministers across the country who would help women find a way to get a safe, and if she couldn’t pay, free abortion. One of the founders, reverend Howard Moody recounts the way they found reliable doctors,

“We had 26 clergy, rabbis and ministers. In order to find those doctors, my colleague, Arlene Carmen, she was the secretary of the church at the time, she would go out and pretend to be pregnant. She’d go into the doctor’s office and observe the cleanliness, observe the people who were there. Then when she’s up on the table and her legs were in the stirrups, she’d then tell him what she was about. That she represented a group of clergy who were referring women for abortions, and they will have been completely counseled, not only whatever moral and ethical questions the woman might have, but also to the physical procedure of the abortion itself. If she saw women mistreated in any way, even abusive language or whatever, that was it, no way, so we picked out the best. There weren’t very many.”

living in an era where abortions weren’t just sometimes difficult to get, like now, but absolutely illegal, changes the issue. i think we have the privilege of having the debate because women in the US don’t have to worry about the very real possibility of death should one of us need to terminate a pregnancy. not only do i not have to worry about it, i don’t have to worry about losing a friend, or a family member. i don’t have to worry that my friend’s children or my own future child will have to put their life on the line if they are desperate not to be pregnant.

the people who are involved in this project talk about just that issue, Dr. Chavkin recalls meeting chief doctors as the new Director of New York City’s Bureau of Maternity Services and Family Planning

“…I remember having conversations with two in particular, each of whom was an older, very religiously conservative man, neither of whom were themselves abortion providers. Both came from orthodox religious traditions that didn’t approve of abortion. And they both said to me, ‘Wendy, if you’ve seen a 13-year-old dying of gas gangrene, you can never really be opposed to abortion after that.’ “

I had a religious studies professor, a devout Christian, once tell my class on ethics that she felt that abortion providers should be considered saints because of the service they provide. i thought that was an odd thing to say, but i’m starting to see her point.

Reading about the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion really warmed my heart. It’s not very often that i have the chance to see religious leaders talk about abortion in this way and it’s often easy for me to make the Christian=anti-abortion jump that really isn’t fair of me. This group of clergy truly ministered to the women who found themselves needing their services. Reverend Moody seems to regard his work during this period in this way,

“It was one of the most important ministries I did at Judson Church. And a lot of ministers have told me in retrospect that the most significant years of their ministry were the years when they were counseling these women.”

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1 comment
  1. jackie said:

    this is a great entry, thanks for this. I need all the uplifting I can get– blog post explaining why coming soon!

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