The Indomitable Spirit of the Reproductive Health Community: A Pathway to Justice, Liberty, and Freedom


In honor of Independence Day, Beacon Broadside asked author Carole Joffe (author of Dispatches from the Abortion Wars) what she’ll be celebrating this July 4th.  

Speaking as one whose professional and political life focuses on reproductive health services, there has lately been very little lately about which to feel celebratory. (An obvious exception of course– the Supreme Court’s recent decision on health reform). Since the 2010 elections, there have been unprecedented, nonstop assaults by Congress and, especially, the states on both abortion and contraceptive services. Nevertheless, what I do feel both celebratory about, and deeply moved by, is the determined pushback shown by the defenders of these services: the more than a thousand who gathered outside the Virginia State House to protest new regulations on abortion, which had nothing to do with “women’s health” and everything to do with politics; the wonderful women legislators in Michigan who, joined by a joyful crowd of supporters, performed the “Vagina Monologues” at the state capitol, after being literally silenced by Republican leadership because they had dared to speak the word “vagina” while objecting to extreme abortion regulation; and “Pillimina,” the human sized birth control pill that Planned Parenthood has deployed to follow Mitt Romney –and remind voters of his rightward turn on contraception.

I celebrate also the indomitable spirit of the abortion providing community, who go to work each day, knowing that there are politicians ever searching for new ways to shut them down, and aggressive protestors who will attempt to intimidate them and their patients. Finally on this day, I celebrate the memory of Dr. George Tiller of Kansas, an abortion provider assassinated three years ago in his church by an extremist. As one of his former staff told me, Dr. Tiller was deeply patriotic, and took the Independence Day and its meaning to heart. One July fourth, in the midst of particularly grueling protests, Tiller and his staff flew a number of American flags at his clinic, and later mailed these flags to abortion providing colleagues across the country. With the flags, he enclosed a letter that said, as the staff person recollected, “We would be honored if you accepted this flag as a symbol of our journey together on the pathway of Justice, Liberty and Freedom.” 

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