"Patient #4 in recovery was moved by your work and wants to see you." When my assistant's email came through, I was in the middle of a meeting in my office. Excusing myself, I put on the white coat I always keep hanging on the back of my chair and went up to the recovery room.
In the fourth bed, I met the wide dark eyes of the woman who wanted to see me and introduced myself. She reached out her arms, and as I drew her close to me her words spilled out: "You saved my life. I was 18 weeks--the baby was dead--they should have told me weeks ago. The doc--she didn't want to help. I found you on the Internet--read all about you. Why didn't they tell me earlier? You saved me--thank you, thank you." •Art by Norma Bessouet
A 17-weeks pregnant woman with severe back pain is admitted to a hospital in the west of Ireland. After an examination, she is told that her cervix is fully dilated; her amniotic fluid leaking. Her immature fetus will not survive. This is made clear to her. She is also told that once she miscarries her ordeal will be over and she can return home. But this never happens. A spontaneous abortion does not occur in the four or five hours predicted by the consultant gynecologist. The woman and her husband are informed that because the fetal heartbeat is still present, no intervention is possible. In spite of her repeated requests for an abortion, the woman is refused. Her husband says they were told that abortion "is against the law." He says they were told, "this is a Catholic country."
On October 18, 2012, the first clinic to offer legal medical abortions, albeit within the tight legal restrictions, finally opened in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Marie Stopes International, Belfast's new private clinic, is located on Great Victoria Street, just across from Belfast's main bus station, and a two and a half hour ride from Dublin. It is part of a network of reproductive health clinics that reports serving more than 100,000 men and women throughout Great Britain and also runs more than 600 centers in forty countries. •Art by Joyce Kozloff and Susan Kraft
Ramona, 32, mother of a four-year-old daughter, is dropped off at the Summit Women's Center in Bridgeport Connecticut at 8 a.m. on a frigid December Saturday. As she gets out of the car to walk the thirty feet to the clinic, she notices a dozen people holding weathered pictures of mangled babies bearing the words "abortion kills." The protesters can't trespass on clinic property or enter the fenced-in parking lot, but plastic bullhorns amplify their voices. "The Lord loves you," they shout. "He has a purpose for every life. You don't need to go in there and murder your child." •Art by Norma Bessouet
The action starts at 7 a.m. every Saturday when volunteers start arriving, women and men, some who get up at 5 a.m. and travel far on the subway to be there, donning white lab coats and positioning themselves on the sidewalk. They come to help escort women patients through the gauntlet of physical and mental harassment outside into Choices Women's Medical Center, so they can get the abortions, birth control, or pre-natal or routine gynecological exams that Choices offers to about 40,000 patients a year. •Art by Georganne Aldrich Heller and Susan Kraft
Judith Arcana is a Jane, a member of Chicago's pre-Roe underground abortion service. She's written a lot of poems and stories about abortion and reproductive justice. Her most recent book is The Parachute Jump Effect; two new stories are in the fall 2012 issue of SERVING HOUSE JOURNAL online. •Art by Andrea Arroyo
Featuring poetry by Rosellen Brown, Patricia Smith, M, and Susan Eisenberg.
These poems were curated by Judith Arcana, outgoing co-poetry editor of On the Issues. Her wisdom and perception over the years shall be missed. •Art by Andrea Arroyo
Reviews of Complaints and Disorders (Second Edition) by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, Dispatches from the Abortion Wars: The Costs of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us by Carole Joffe, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement by Sarah Erdreich, The 'Abortion Trail' and the Making of a London-Irish Underground, 1980-2000 by Ann Rossiter, Delirium: the Politics of Sex in America by Nancy L. Cohen, and The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion by Stephen Singular.
ROE THROUGH THE YEARS AT OTI
Rosa Parks and Alice Paul put their bodies on the line, saying, “This much injustice and no more.” So did all of the providers of abortion services who risked their lives and freedom before abortion was legal, and those who continue to risk their lives by just doing their work on a daily basis.
Perhaps Martin Luther expressed this perspective best after he nailed his 95 Theses on the doors at Wittenberg in 1517: “Here I stand; I can do no other.”
That act was an inspiration 20 years ago when I led the first pro-choice civil disobedience at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on April 29, 1989. Pro-choice activists were arrested for the first time in the movement’s history. We declared that “women’s rights are in a state of emergency,” and we held our petition at the cathedral door.
The tragedy of Savita Halappanaver who died on Oct. 28, 2012 after being denied an abortion in a hospital in Ireland reminds us that all women suffer from circumstances that cross national boundaries, from social and religious conventions, outmoded ideas and societal norms, united by "just" being female.
From its 1983 inception as a newsletter of Choices Women's Medical Center, founded by Merle Hoffman, through the 16 years it grew into a nationally acclaimed print magazine, and into the nearly-five years of its rebirth as a quarterly online publication, On the Issues Magazine has covered and analyzed the struggle for and around abortion and how reproductive freedom is essential to women's lives.'