We are told the right to have an abortion was given to us by female-friendly politicians and a liberal Supreme Court, but that’s just not true.
Abortion was won by women like you and me — speaking out, organizing, marching in the streets — the Supreme Court and legislators followed our lead.
In 1969, four years before the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, women in Redstockings of the Women’s Liberation Movement appeared at a New York City legislative hearing on abortion law reform, where several women tried to take the microphone from the scheduled speakers: 14 men and a nun. Barred from testifying, Redstockings shouted out its demands: that women testify as the real experts on abortion and for repeal of all abortion laws.
Redstockings held its own abortion “Speakout” soon afterward at the Washington Square Methodist Church in New York, where members testified about their own — then criminal — abortions before an audience of more than 300 people and the media. In 1970, New York State passed the most liberal abortion law in the country, legalizing abortion through the second trimester in most cases.
When the Supreme Court ruled three years later in Roe v. Wade, it used the New York State law as its model.
Women’s control over their bodies has been an ongoing fight. In its 1989 Webster decision, the Supreme Court ruled that states could restrict abortion. Then-Florida-Gov. Bob Martinez called a special session to make Florida the first state to restrict abortion following the Webster decision.
Florida feminists, including Gainesville Women’s Liberation, called for a march on the capitol. Ten thousand women showed up on the Monday of the special session, and no legislation was passed.
The aggressiveness of the anti-choice movement has gained considerable momentum in the past three years, erupting last summer with the passage of anti-choice legislation in more than a dozen states, including Ohio, Texas and North Carolina.
These measures included legislation severely restricting and, in some cases, banning abortion 20 weeks post-conception and imposing expensive and unnecessary regulations that force abortion clinics to close, as happened in Texas. More than 20 other states, including Florida, will have similar legislation pending this year.
Just like when women won the right to abortion in this country through a movement, we need a movement now to fight back against these attacks and win more rights for women. National Women’s Liberation is a feminist group fighting for free and full access to all forms of birth control, including contraception and abortion.
We believe women should control when and if we have children. To get involved, come to our next local meeting Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Little Hall, Room 119, or contact us at [email protected] or (352) 575-0495. Our website is womensliberation.org.
National Women’s Liberation Steering Committee: Joye Barnes, Betty Campbell, Nicole Hardin, Chelsea Hetelson, Meredith Kite, Alex Leader, Natalie Maxwell, Stephanie Seguin, Kendra Vincent.
A version of this guest column ran on page 7 on 1/17/2014 under the headline "With recent legislation, women’s rights in danger"