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.