Most of you probably know that January 22, was the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade, but what many probably don’t know is one of the attorneys who argued in front of the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade, is a woman named Sarah Weddington. In honor of this groundbreaking anniversary, Seattle’s Planned Parenthood hosted Sarah Weddington at Town Hall.
Despite that landmark decision, religious groups have been actively trying to have the law overturned. And most recently there have been attacks on women’s rights in several states. One hundred thirty-five laws in thirty states were enacted in 2011 alone and ninety-two restrictions enacted in 2012.
The event was hosted by Cienna Madrid from Seattle’s local publication, The Stranger.
Preceding Dr. Weddington’s talk was Dr. Anna Kaminski, senior Physician of Northwest Planned Parenthood. Dr. Kaminski spoke of some of the patients she sees at Planned Parenthood clinics. She spoke of one woman who thought she was infertile until she found herself pregnant at age 45. She already had two “tweens” and felt her family complete.
She spoke of what it was like prior to Roe v. Wade when women had to scrape together three to four hundred dollars for procedures that often resulted in life threatening injuries. Many young women died.
Following Dr. Kaminski was Lee Minto, former president and CEO of King County Planned Parenthood. She spoke of a young teen couple who found themselves pregnant. The young man worked as a mechanic and was telling his troubles to a co-worker who claimed he “knew somebody” who could take care of their problem. The young man got in touch with the “someone” and agreed to meet him in a hotel room with $350 in cash. They waited in the hotel room, a man came, took the money and the girl to a different room where he proceeded to rape the young girl before taking off with the money, leaving her still pregnant. She finished her speech with the statement, “Freedom of choice is essential to women and for the men who care about them.” For this she received a standing ovation.
Next, a video was shown of a couple who had three boys but wanted a little girl very badly. The wife became pregnant and at twenty-two weeks her water broke. After endless consultations to try and save their baby, they were told nothing could be done to save the baby. Without amniotic fluid, the baby would be badly deformed and the uterus, being a muscle would contract without and crush the baby. The couple was left little choice but to abort. However, because Nebraska (where they lived) enacted a law making it illegal to abort after twenty weeks, they weren’t allowed to abort. They were sent home to await the death of their baby, which happened ten days later. The couple agreed to be interviewed to show how the interference of government officials into decisions that should be private, can have such devastating effects.
Following the video was Christine Charbonneau, current president/CEO of the Northwest Planned Parenthood. She mentioned the current political climate where elected officials claim rape is a gift from god and that we are seeing the ugliest of men and that these male politicians believe in the hierarchy of God, then men as superior and the rest don’t matter. She mentioned the woman from Ireland who was admitted to the hospital seventeen weeks pregnant and needed an abortion to save her life. However, since she was admitted to a Catholic hospital, she was denied the abortion and died as a result. This caused outrage all over the world, but is exactly what many lawmakers are pushing for here in the US.
Sarah Weddington came on and talked of how she ended up fighting in front of the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade at the tender age of twenty-six. She had been working for women needing abortions and doing so pro-bono. Before the Supreme Court declared abortion legal, a few states had passed legal abortions. Women living in states that didn’t allow abortions had to travel to states that did. One of those states was California, in which then governor Ronald Reagan signed it into law. She mentioned Reagan didn’t become anti-choice until he ran for president. But traveling out of state was cost prohibitive for poor women. Dr. Weddington lived in Texas (she still does) and mentioned that Texas is very male dominated and not a good place for women. Later, Dr. Weddington decided to run for the state legislature, never believing she’d win. But she did and the day she took office, a NY Times reporter called her asking her if she had a statement about the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade. She didn’t know whether or not it had passed and had to call on colleagues from D.C. to get her the full transcript of the decision before making a public statement.
This was the second time I got to hear Dr. Weddington speak and she never ceases to amaze me. She also has had a riveting autobiography out for several years and I highly recommend it.
The sold-out event is a reminder that the majority of people support safe and legal abortions and that the current climate attacking women is something we must all band together to fight against. Five remarkable women ranging in age from twenty something to fifty and sixty something, to well into their eighties reminded us that we must never stop fighting for our rights.