A ‘sucker punch’: Some women fear backlash for hard-won rights – Boston News, Weather, Sports

At 88, Gloria Steinem has long been the most visible feminist and advocate for women’s rights in the country. But at 22, she was a terrified American in London who got an illegal abortion of a pregnancy so unwanted she actually tried throwing herself down the stairs to terminate it.

Her response to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade is succinct: “Obviously,” she wrote in an email, “without the right of women and men to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy.”

Steinem’s blunt remark goes to the heart of the desperation some opponents feel over Friday’s historic rollback of the 1973 legal battle legalizing abortion. If a right so central to the general struggle for women’s equality can be revoked, they ask, what does that mean for the advances women have made in public life over the past 50 years?

“One of the things I keep hearing from women is, ‘My daughter will have fewer rights than I do. And how can that be?’” says Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “If that’s possible, what else can be done? It makes everything feel precarious.”

Reproductive freedom wasn’t the only demand of second-wave feminism, as the women’s movement of the ’60s and ’70s is called, but it was certainly one of the most rousing issues, along with equality in the workplace.

The women who fought for these rights recall an amazing decade of progress from about 1963 to 1973, including the right to equal pay, the right to birth control, and Title IX in 1972 prohibiting discrimination in education. Roe v. Wade crowned it a year later, granting a constitutional right to abortion.

Many of the women who identified as feminists at the time had had illegal abortions or knew someone who did. In fact, Steinem credits a “speak-out” meeting she attended in her 30s about abortion as the moment she transitioned from journalism to activism — and finally felt able to speak out about her own secret abortion to speak.

“Abortion is so closely related to the women’s movement in this country,” says Carole Joffe, a sociologist at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who studies and teaches the history of abortion. “Besides improved birth control, legal abortion meant that women who were heterosexually active could continue to participate in public life. It enabled the tremendous change we’ve seen in the status of women in the last 50 years.” Joffe says many women like her now feel the right to contraception may be in jeopardy – something they consider “unthinkable”. names.

One of them is Heather Booth. When she was 20 years old and a college student in Chicago, a friend asked if she could help his sister get an abortion. It was 1965, and through contacts in the civil rights movement, she found a way to put the young woman, who was almost suicidal at the prospect of pregnancy, in touch with a doctor who was willing to help. She thought it would be a one-off, but Booth eventually became a co-founder of the Jane Collective, an underground group of women dedicated to providing safe abortions to those in need. In all, the group performed around 11,000 abortions in about seven years — a story told in new documentary The Janes.

Booth, now 76, witnesses the Roe v. Wade as a terrifying challenge to the triumphs of the women’s movement.

“I think we’re on a knife edge,” she says. “On the one hand, the situation of women in this society has changed over the past 50 years,” she adds, recalling that when they were young, women could only respond to job advertisements in the “women’s sector,” to name just one example.

“So there has been progress towards greater equality, but … if you ask where we are, I think we really are on a knife edge in a struggle between democracy and freedom and tyranny, a dismantling of freedoms that have long been fought for became .”

Of course, not every woman believes abortion is a right worth preserving.

Linda Sloan, who has volunteered with her husband for the past five years at the anti-abortion organization A Moment of Hope in Columbia, South Carolina, says she values ​​women’s rights.

“I strongly believe and support that women should be equal to men … (in) job opportunities, salary, respect and many other areas,” she says. She says she’s tried to instill these values ​​in her two daughters and two sons and upholds them with her work in two women’s shelters, trying to empower women to make the right decisions.

But when it comes to Roe v. Wade, she says, “I believe the rights of the unborn child are just as important. To quote Psalm 139, I believe that God ‘formed my heart’ and ‘knitted me together in my mother’s womb’.”

Like Sloan, Elizabeth Kilmartin is a volunteer at A Moment of Hope and is delighted with the court’s decision.

In her younger years she considered herself a feminist and went to college to study women’s history. Then, over the years, she became firmly anti-abortion and no longer considers herself a feminist because she believes the word has been co-opted by the left. “No women’s rights were violated by the decision to stop killing babies in the womb,” Kilmartin said. “We have all kinds of women in power. Women are no longer oppressed in the workplace. We have a female vice president… It’s just ridiculous to think we’re being oppressed like that.”

Cheryl Lambert falls right into the opposing camp. The former Wall Street executive, now 65, immediately thought back to the accomplishments she’d made earlier in her banking career, becoming the first woman to be promoted to an executive position at the institution she worked for. She calls the court decision “a slapstick”.

“My thought was, what era are we living in?” says Lambert. “We’re moving backwards. I’m only angry on behalf of our children and our grandchildren.”

Lambert himself needed an abortion as a young mother when it was discovered that the fetus carried a genetic disease. “I thought it would be easier, not more difficult, to have an abortion in this country,” she says.

Now she and many other women fear a return to the dangerous, illegal abortions of the past — and a disproportionate impact on women without the ability to travel to pro-abortion states. Still, many are trying to see a bright side: that no matter how bleak the moment may seem, change could come through renewed energy at the ballot box.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” says Carol Tracy of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia.

Steinem also issued a note of determination.

“Women have always taken power over our own bodies and we will continue to do so,” she wrote in her email message. “An unjust court cannot stop abortion, but it does guarantee civil disobedience and disrespect for the court.”

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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https://whdh.com/news/a-sucker-punch-some-women-fear-setback-to-hard-won-rights/ A ‘sucker punch’: Some women fear backlash for hard-won rights – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Nate Jones

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