When Abortion was Illegal

As a follow up on Blog for Choice day . . .

I posted this (in a slightly different form) on a comments thread over at feministing yesterday, and thought perhaps some of you would be interested in it as well. Another reader wrote:
It wasn't until I read Back Rooms : Stories from the Illegal Abortion Era that I truly understood the importance of being pro-choice. We have to share those horrific, graphic, terrifying stories and images with kids, because the pro-life movement has some pretty ghastly images that work in scaring kids into a pro-life stance. Why don't we use the same tactics? Do we not want to stoop to their level?

I wrote in response:

Part of the success of the movement to legalize abortion in the mid-20th c. came from the fact that women were able to deploy those images . . . and many more people in that era (just after the advent of the pill, remember) had personal stories about women in their family who had attempted home- or back-alley abortions and been damaged or disfigured.

Since abortion has been legalized, the number of unsafe abortions has (thankfully) dropped significantly . . . though of course not been eliminated. But I think it's more invisible than it used to be to those in the decision-making positions. White, middle-class women with money aren't flying to Cuba for back-alley abortions, they're able to drive to the next state to the clinic of their choice.

. . .I'm not necessarily for using the shock tactics of the anti-choice movement, since they often involve using misleading images and false information. But I do think we can do a better job of highlighting the bodily risks to women--and the impact on their families--if the country continues to strengthen anti-choice policies.

Here's an amazing audio documentary that was honorable mention at the Third Coast Audio Festival this year:

The Search for Edna Lavilla (Australia)
by Sharon Davis and Eurydice Aroney with sound engineer
Russell Stapleton

In 1942 Edna Lavilla Haynes died from a backyard abortion. After her death Edna was never mentioned again. More than sixty years later Edna’s granddaughter looks for clues - a search that leads through police files and government records and down Sydney’s back alleys of the 1940’s, where one in four pregnancies ended in abortion and sometimes death.

The Search for Edna Lavilla first aired on ABC Radio National’s Radio Eye.

It can be found online at this website, currently sixth story from the top and it's about fifty minutes long. Really amazing stuff.

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