BMJ 2022; 378
Published 26 July 2022
Agnes Arnold Forster, research fellow
In October 1971, the New York Times reported a decline in maternal death rate.1 Just 15 months earlier, the state had liberalised its abortion law. David Harris, New York’s deputy commissioner of health, speaking to the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, attributed the decline—by more than half—to the replacement of criminal abortions with safe, legal ones. Previously, abortion had been the single leading cause of maternity related deaths, accounting for around a third. A doctor in the audience who said he was from a state “where the abortion law is still archaic,” thanked New York for its “remarkable job” and expressed his gratitude that there was a place he could send his patients and know they would receive “safe, excellent care.” Harris urged other states to follow the example set by New York and liberalise their abortion laws.
October 29, 2021
MATT OZUG, SARAH HANDEL, AILSA CHANG
Even in feminist history, Pat Maginnis does not quite command name recognition. "She was not Gloria Steinem," says writer Lili Loofbourow, who profiled the early abortion-rights advocate in 2018. "She was not an attention seeker or a credit seeker."
Maginnis may have lacked a nose for the spotlight. She wasn't one for glamour — she was known to dress in clothes from thrift stores or even those she found on the street. And she employed confrontational tactics that forced the issue into the public eye.
In the years before Roe v. Wade, she helped shift the debate away from the rules governing abortion providers to women’s right to control their bodies.
By Katharine Q. Seelye
Sept. 4, 2021
Patricia Maginnis, one of the nation’s earliest and fiercest proponents of a woman’s right to safe, legal abortions, who crusaded for that right on her own before the formation of an organized reproductive-rights movement, died on Aug. 30 in Oakland, Calif. She was 93.
Her niece Semberlyn Crossley said the cause of her death, in a hospital, was chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
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.