Tired of hiding: five doctors who provide abortions come out
They’re fearless, defiant, and increasingly angry at the mounting threats in the US to reproductive rights. Here, they reveal why the reasons why they choose to go public
by Carey Dunne
Tue 6 Aug 2019
On a frigid evening in January, Dr Katie McHugh welcomed 20 guests into her Indianapolis home and prepared to tell them a secret she had kept for seven years. They had come for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser party; among them were her father and two sisters. As they gathered in her living room, sipping wine, McHugh’s hands shook.
“I was quite nervous, but I wanted to get my secret out as soon as I could,” she says. “I said, ‘Welcome. I’m glad you’re all here. I’m Katie McHugh. I’m an OB-GYN here in Indianapolis, and I’m also an abortion provider.’ My father visibly flinched. Then I stopped to take a breath, and everyone applauded, including my family.
Missouri and the Fight for Abortion Rights: How Past Became Prologue
Missouri’s historic battle for abortion rights presaged in important ways where we are today, and what will be required of reproductive rights advocates in the future.
Aug 1, 2019
The time, the late 1960s; the place, St. Louis, Missouri. Judy Widdicombe, a twenty-something self-described supermom, was raising two boys with her husband, working as a labor and delivery nurse in a Catholic hospital, and volunteering one night a week as a counselor on a suicide prevention hotline.
“In those days, there was no official place a woman with an unwanted pregnancy could go for help,” she told me when I interviewed her for my book, The Choices We Made: 25 Women and Men Speak Out About Abortion.
Former Member Of 'Jane' Abortion Service Remembers Time Before Roe v. Wade
July 29, 2019
A number of states have passed laws this year restricting access to abortion, raising concerns among activists that the debate could reach the Supreme Court and possibly lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
This was the 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the country. Laura Kaplan remembers a time before abortion was legal. She was a member of the Chicago group, Jane, also know as The Abortion Counseling Service of Women’s Liberation, which provided abortions to women illegally.
Not Your Grandmother’s Illegal Abortion
By Jennifer Block
July 1, 2019
The sola variety of papaya resembles a pregnant uterus, so much so that around the world, humans use the fruit to learn one method of modern reproductive health care: manual vacuum aspiration, or MVA, a low-risk, low-tech method of first-trimester abortion that requires little or no anesthesia. As one doctor remarked at a conference in 1973, where the technology was introduced to physicians from around the world, “it’s something we will be able to bring practically into the rice paddy.”
This, too, is the fruit I have been given to practice on. I’ve placed it on a table across from me, and I’m focused on the neck, where its stem grew, which evokes the cervical os. The tool I’m using is a large plastic syringe with a bendable plastic strawlike thing, called a cannula, where the needle would be. At the top of the syringe is a bivalve to create one-way suction.
The female game designers fighting back on abortion rights
Through video games, live-action role-playing games and interactive documentaries, developers are challenging the conversation around reproductive rights
Fri 28 Jun 2019
The year is 1972. You’re part of an underground network of feminists in Chicago that provide illegal (at the time) abortion services to vulnerable, pregnant people with few options. Despite the risk of imprisonment, and the ways that your personal experiences may not always perfectly align with your activism, you persist.
It’s emotionally complicated. It’s politically fraught. It’s a live-action roleplaying game by Jon Cole and Kelley Vanda called The Abortionists, which requires three players, one facilitator, six hours and a willingness to dig deep into the painful history of reproductive rights in the United States. That history has terrifying relevance in 2019, as numerous states pass laws that put their residents in a reality where abortion is functionally illegal. Based on the real-life work of a 1970s activist group called Jane, it challenges its participants to think about the “internal landscapes” of its players, and how they deal with the larger political and personal landscape of their world.
Abortion bans have some women preparing for the worst. It involves ‘auntie networks.’
By Monica Hesse, Columnist
May 26, 2019
The first breadcrumb leading me to an Auntie Network landed in my path last week, in the form of a Facebook post written by a friend of a friend:
“Hey! People with uteri in other states! If you need to visit your friend Cindy in Chicago, you just PM me and ask for my phone number. I will be so excited to TALK and HANG OUT with you. No judgment. No questions.”
The Abortion Rights Movement Can’t Afford Amnesia—or Nonprofits Leading Our Activism
We need an energetic movement that will fight for abortion without reservation. And that means reclaiming its radical roots—and reclaiming it from big national organizations, including the Democratic Party.
Mar 11, 2019
Michelle Farber & Dayna Long
Given the dire state of abortion access, it’s hard to believe that a radical women’s movement in this country once helped win transformative reforms, including decriminalizing abortion, in spite of a Republican president and a U.S. Supreme Court packed with GOP appointees. If you don’t know the history of that movement—or what followed for feminists after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973—it can be even harder to imagine a way forward for abortion rights supporters now. A movement that doesn’t reflect on its own history, including its failures, has an uncertain and rocky future.
We were recently reminded of that when reading Robin Marty’s Handbook for a Post-Roe America, billed as the definitive guide for activists to navigate the current crisis, in which abortions are already inaccessible for many and the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to make things worse.
The New Abortion Underground Starts With Information
The threats against safe abortions are changing—where women once feared the coat hanger, the symbol of the handcuff is now more ominous. Is arming activists with information the first step in keeping abortion accessible?
By Meghan Racklin
January 22, 2019
A papaya, it turns out, is a good model of a uterus in the early stages of pregnancy. Well—the papaya is a bit bigger, actually. And the average uterus has more of a tilt. But overall, the fruit is a close replica.
That’s what I’m told during a training session hosted by the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP). Under the guidance of our instructor, a doctor and RHAP fellow, I insert a thin metal instrument into the top of my papaya to create an opening before inserting a small suction device called an aspirator. There’s a slight slurping sound as the papaya seeds are sucked into the aspirator’s main chamber. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp. And then it’s done.
What Back Alley? These Women Say DIY Abortion Can Be Empowering
The pro-choice movement has portrayed non-clinic abortion as a last resort. But some women are trying to change that image.
The image provokes both fear and fury: a wire coat hanger, spattered with blood, symbolizing the drastic measures women may take when abortion access is limited.
Whoopi Goldberg brandished one on stage at the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, urging the younger generation to remember what their forebears used. Protesters at the 1989 March for Women's Equality carried a giant replica, stained red, through the streets of Washington D.C. like a macabre parade float. And the symbol has been ubiquitous since Donald Trump’s election, popping up at marches, in the pages of glossy magazines, and on this site.
The imagery makes Jill Adams, founder of the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team, shake her head.
They Called Her “the Che Guevara of Abortion Reformers”
A decade before Roe, Pat Maginnis’ radical activism—and righteous rage—changed the abortion debate forever.
By Lili Loofbourow
Dec 04, 2018
There was nothing remarkable about the small woman carrying a box of leaflets—certainly nothing to justify the clutch of reporters waiting for her across from San Francisco’s Federal Building on a July morning in 1966. Still, there they were. She arrived at exactly 9 a.m., greeted them, and began distributing fliers to anyone who passed. There were two of them: One was a yellow slip of paper titled “Classes in Abortion,” listing topics like female anatomy, foreign abortion specialists, and police questioning. The other—which she gave only to the assembled journalists and the five women who signed up for her class that Wednesday evening—described two techniques for DIY abortions. “I am attempting to show women an alternative to knitting needles, coat hangers, and household cleaning agents,” she told the reporters, adding that she had notified San Francisco police of her whereabouts and plans.