|on the radar: We Had Abortions
Join in a campaign for honesty and freedom.
In its 1972 debut issue, Ms. magazine ran a bold petition
in which 53 well-known U.S. women declared
that they had undergone abortions—despite
state laws rendering the procedure illegal. These women were following the example of a 1971 manifesto
signed by 343 prominent French women, who also declared
they had abortions.
Even then, to many it seemed absurd that the government
could deny a woman sovereignty over her own
body. It is even more absurd in 2006 to learn that an abortion
ban has passed into law in South Dakota. The South
Dakota ban has been stayed because an initiative to remove
this ban has been placed on the state’s November
ballot. Whatever happens in South Dakota, 17 states
now have trigger laws or pre-Roe bans that will ban abortion
if the Supreme Court were to reverse Roe v. Wade.A
myriad of restrictions already limit access to abortion in
the U.S. for poor women, young women, and women
in the military. We know it is time again for women of
conscience to stand up and speak truth to power.
At the time of the original Ms. petition, illegal abortions
were causing untold suffering in the United
States, especially for poor women who had to resort to
unsafe self-induced or back-alley abortions. Today, in
the developing nations each year, approximately 70,000
women and girls die from botched and unsafe abortions
and another 500,000 maternal deaths occur—most of
this suffering and loss could be prevented. U.S. international
family planning policies contribute to this death
toll: first, by conditioning its aid on a global gag rule
that prevents medical workers from giving even information
on abortion; second, by withholding or providing inadequate funds; and finally, by funding abstinence-only education.
We are now starting a new petition, beginning with
the names of some of the original 1972 signers. They
signed “to save lives and to spare other women the pain
of socially imposed guilt.” Their purpose was “to repeal
archaic and inhuman [anti-abortion] laws.”
We recognize that, still, not every woman will be
able to sign today—33 years after Roe—even though
abortion is a very common, necessary and important procedure for millions of women in the U.S. But if a
multitude of women would step forward publicly—and
more and more would continue to join them—we
would change the public debate.
We know that women who have had abortions have
spoken out many times during the last 33 years … and
millions of women and men have marched in countless rallies and demonstrations.
It is time to speak out again– in even larger numbers —and to make politicians face their neighbors, influential
movers and shakers, and yes, their family members.
We cannot, must not—for U.S. women and the women
of the world—lose the right to safe, legal, and accessible
abortion or access to birth control. Just as in 1972,
Ms. will send the signed petitions to the White House, members of Congress and state legislators. We will also
place the petition online. And we ask signers to make a
contribution so Ms. can promote the petition and provide
needed funds to fight abortion bans and support
targeted abortion providers, such as the sole remaining women’s clinic in Mississippi.
Your name and your voice will make a difference.