NYTimes Letter to the Editor

Printed in The New York Times, September 22, 2014:

(This letter was in response to an opinion piece by Merritt Tierce, which appeared in The Times on September 13)

To the Editor:

The abortion stories of Merritt Tierce and Wendy Davis have one thing in common: Both women had access to safe, legal procedures. I did not.

A victim of workplace rape in the days before Roe v. Wade, I was among the millions of women who sought out back-alley abortionists. Happily, I survived; unhappily, countless others did not.

Each of our stories, just like every woman’s story today, was complex, personal and private. We had only desperation in common.

The lesson is that you can ban or restrict abortion all you want — as is happening all over the United States — but short of chaining a woman to the bedpost for nine months, you cannot force her to continue an unwanted pregnancy. If she has the money and resources, she will find a safe procedure somewhere. If she is poor and powerless, she will do desperate and dangerous things.

In the headlong rush to restrict access and eventually ban abortion once again, guess who suffers?

FRAN MORELAND JOHNS
San Francisco, Sept. 13, 2014

The writer is the author of “Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before — and After — Roe v. Wade.”

(It’s interesting to note that the only anti-choice letter published in this group is from a white male Catholic who sees only the fetus and not the woman. I respect his religion, but not his inability to see the woman’s part, or her need to make decisions about her body.)

Hearing Wendy’s voice – & others

Mandatory pre-abortion waiting period laws in ...
Mandatory pre-abortion waiting period laws in the United States of America. Mainland U.S. edited from a 600px map by Jared Benedict at Libre Map Project and non-continental states from http://www.uscourts.gov/images/CircuitMapoutlined.eps by the United States Department of Justice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gail Collins, in her traditionally precise prose, wound up a recent column on Wendy Davis‘ now historic filibuster in the Texas legislature thusly:

A few years back, Davis told me about an incident during a debate when she had asked a veteran Republican a question about a pending bill. Dodging her query, he said: “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”

“I guess they can hear her now.”

Amen.

There’s something about hearing women’s voices that can make men, especially men who would like to tell women what they can or cannot do with their own bodies, too uncomfortable to listen.

In one poignant story included in my new book Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade (plug intended) Karen Mulhauser tells of the time when she testified before a congressional committee about being brutally raped in her home. She was trying to make the point that had a pregnancy resulted she would not have wanted it to continue. But Congressman Ed Patten (who died at 89 in 1994, after serving 17 years in Congress) “appeared to be asleep.” Representative Silvio Conte (1921-1991; then a Republican from Massachusetts) turned his swivel chair away from her to face the wall.  Mulhauser, former head of NARAL Pro-Choice and current chair of Women’s Information Network, was angered — but not silenced.

Some voices, those of women without resources who are facing unwanted pregnancies in states where safe abortion is de facto impossible, are going unheard. And those women are doing desperate things.

But it is for them that Wendy Davis, and Karen Mulhauser, and every woman and man who believes in a woman’s right to choose, is raising her own voice of encouragement and support. And those voices will be heard.