Remembering Roe in Denver: Real People, Real Stories

Desperate and alone, Kathy* confided to a fellow student that she was pregnant and needed to terminate her pregnancy. But getting an abortion was still illegal in the United States then and her options for professional medical care were extremely limited.

Several young women in her dormitory at the University of Colorado-Boulder took up a collection to get Kathy to an abortion clinic in Mexico. She returned to Colorado soon after and while recovering in a local hotel room, Kathy began to hemorrhage severely.

"She had been butchered," said Cindi Coleman, who served as a freshman residence hall leader and helped gather funds for the procedure.

The girls panicked. As Kathy became increasingly ill, they sought advice from a trusted older student in the dorm. She convinced them to bring Kathy to a nearby hospital where she was treated for injuries sustained during the botched abortion.

The secrecy and fear of those events 40 years ago still haunt Coleman who told me her friend’s harrowing story in hushed tones at a commemoration event for the 37th anniversary of Roe v Wade in Denver Thursday hosted by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Nearly losing her friend to a botched abortion motivated Coleman to be a driving force in the pro-choice movement. And her decades of activism has helped protect a woman’s right to choose on both the local and national stage — through the National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and the Denver-based coalition, Protect Families Protect Choice, that soundly defeated the 2008 anti-abortion Colorado constitutional amendment to enact "personhood" rights for fertilized eggs.

The "personhood" movement is the latest threat to Roe. It attempts to broadly ban abortion, outlaw contraception that interferes with implantation and restrict in-vitro fertilization under a conservative legal strategy to attack the Supreme Court’s decision on 14th amendment equal protection and due process grounds.

Against the latest backdrop of fierce ideological and hypothetical arguments surrounding Roe, Kathy’s story serves as a stark reminder of the very personal consequences of the need for safe, legal comprehensive reproductive health care access.

Being a mom is joyful but very difficult. Roe matters to me because it allows for women to become the best mothers than possibly be. Save Roe. — a handwritten note left on the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

For Melina Hernandez, a law student at the University of Denver and patient of Planned Parenthood, her activism was inspired by the knowledge that others before her, like Cindi, fought for her right to reproductive freedom.

The turning point for Hernandez was a discussion with a mentor who expressed concerns about the waning priority of younger generations engaged in pro-choice activism.

"I stumbled into it when I began to realize there were political reasons I had health care access," said Hernandez recounting her mentor’s advice to remember how hard her foremothers worked to ensure future women could obtain contraception, cancer screenings, sex education and confidential health care services.

[Roe] means self-determination, ease of mind control over one’s own destiny. —a message to supporters on the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

John Bosley attended the event to combat the stereotype that defending Roe is a woman’s issue. The Westminster, Colo., resident married his high school sweetheart 10 years ago and it was her reproductive health advocacy that ignited his own need to get involved.

"Men have just as much responsibility to support this," said Bosley who uses Facebook to chat about the issue with conservative friends. And his approach seems to resonate with other men by focusing the discussion on bedrock American principles of freedom and self-determination by asking: "Do you stand for people having choice without interference from the government or the church?"

For the 300 people who were expected to attend the Denver Roe event the fight for reproductive health continues under the mantle of Bosley’s question.

Among the more contentious issues in Colorado is a second attempt by religious conservatives to place a state "personhood" initiative on the 2010 ballot. Meanwhile, conservative state lawmakers are working to thwart a bill to ban gender-rating of health insurance policies— a discriminatory practice that allows insurers to charge women up to 59 percent more than men. When freedom of choice becomes a numbers game with more expensive costs and less comprehensive care, everybody loses. 

I am a moral decision-maker, perfectly competent to make my own decisions. Anything less is an insult. — from the PPRM Roe v Wade remembrance wall.

*Kathy is a pseudonym used to protect her privacy.

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  • parkay

    Good and moral mothers do not contract the mangling, dismembering, poisoning, and beheading of their children in abortion mills.

  • ahunt

    Right. Only bad and immoral mothers choose abortion. Which leads us to the inevitable question: should these bad and immoral mothers be entrusted with the raising of children? Especially considering that roughly one third of adult American women have undergone the procedure?

    What say you, Parkay?

  • harry834

    I’d like to see Parkay’s answer. Going to bookmark this conversation. But I won’t be contributing, just watching.

  • ahunt

    Nonsense Harry…you vill participate…ve haff vays uff makink you.




    Deeply appreciate your reasoned responses. I’ve long since sunk into snark…with only occasional glimpses of civilized discourse from time to time. If there is a discussion that would benefit from your input…it is this one.

  • harry834

    my new project is going to be talking on "pro-life" sites. I just got out of a facebook chat with a pro-lifer (though not sure she’d describe herself that way).

  • julie-watkins

    I’ve been considering doing this also, … but I’ve firmly told myself I have to get taxes done first. (It’s very hard to make myself give my money to immoral wars and corporate welfare — I tell myself I’m paying protection money, not being complicit. I don’t agree, but I don’t want to go to jail.)

    I try to get the idea of “Nature’s Sexism” through the barrier — ie, why is it unethical to complain that unfair “rules” are unfair? — but for people who think Things Happen For A Reason being born female instead of male is a pretty large sign of what Nature (or God) wants for you. It’s understandable why such people might have “traditional” expectations of how pregnant women should act if contraception fails. For people who think gender-at-birth is chance, then Nature’s Sexism is an ethical problem.

    To me, abortion a conditional “problem” — so long as the greater ethical problem of women’s oppression and classist oppression of the poor exist, the circumstance of an unwanted fetus ethically has to be decided by the woman and her chosen advisors. Or it’s added injustice to women and poor families. The only time I’ve gotten any response, it wasn’t a discussion. Just an unexamined opinion-stated-as-fact that it wouldn’t be right to use a “corrective” that increases injusted for other people (where ZBEF’s are considered “people”).

    … Sorry, I’m babbling. I guess what I’m "saying" is that I’d like a report of what kind of reactions you get, especially if you can get into a real discussion, and especially if you touch on any areas close the ethics of “right to life” vs “right to equality”.

    Good luck!

  • wendy-norris

    Reading the comments of fired up pro-choice advocates is as much of a privilege as writing for RH Reality Check.

    Rock on.

  • ahunt




    Brave One…sending all the new age, woo woo, positive thinking cosmic vibes your way.


    Rather I would, if I had any idea what doing so entailed.


    Again seriously…good luck with that. Be particularly prepared for the Biblical Defined Gender Role discussion…where you will learn that women fit nicely into a 12" by 12" box labeled "not men."


    Editing this at 10pm est…because I just realized I forgot to warn Harry of the other pitfall…


    God ordained quiz…goes something like this: God knows X would choose an abortion, but decides to test X  anyway…on the off-chance that X will see the light…even though God knows what X will actually do.


    IOWs, God knocks up women as a test of public faith.


    Wildly creepy.


  • janine

    God ordained quiz…goes something like this: God knows X would choose an abortion, but decides to test X anyway…on the off-chance that X will see the light…even though God knows what X will actually do. IOWs, God knocks up women as a test of public faith.

    What? Please tell me you just made this up.


    Wildly creepy – yes.

  • ahunt

    This is a truncated version of the most baffling of my online conversations with true "pro-life" believers…back in the day.


    Seriously…God wills conception knowing that  X will abort but hoping X won’t abort all the while knowing that X will abort.


    Because God knows what is in X’s heart and mind.


    Baffled yet?

  • princess-rot

    If slutty wimmenz would just abide by the rules of my religion, Jeezus will personally make sure those unwanted babies are properly cared for. If wimmenz are bad, and think their bodies belong to them, he will put them on the naughty list and they’ll get coal for Christmas.

  • crowepps

    Sadistic parents do this all the time — knowing their child loves sweeties, they leave a cookie temptingly on the table and then are ‘shocked, just SHOCKED’ that the child would take it.  It’s a clever way of tempting the child into error so that they have an excuse to indulge their sadism by punishing them.


    I have a real problem with this vile characterization of God, but it doesn’t baffle me at all — people who believe this way were raised by the kind of abusive parents that I had myself.

  • prochoicegoth

    What’s an abortion mill? Is that like a wind mill? And as far as I know, feoti are not beheaded or poisoned during abortions. Must you lifers be such dramaqueens and resort to using exaggerations that are more suited for horror movies than a legal medical procedure? 


    It’s pro-choice or NO choice.

  • ahunt

    I have a real problem with this vile characterization of God

    Yah…just could not wrap my mind around the concept of God as perverted and vicious…all the while being earnestly assured of His loving mercy.

  • emma

    No no no, The Undead The Unborn sweet little baybeez are placed in slave labour camps and worked until the brink of death, at which point they are nailed to little tiny crucifixes, just like Jeebus.