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Moyers writes: "For many decades men used the power of the state to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies. Once legal, abortion was outlawed in the late 19th century, and women who sought one were treated as sinners and criminals."

Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)
Bill Moyers. (photo: PBS)


On 'No Choice'

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

14 November 17


Our new video series launches this week as a reminder of the experience of women who sought abortions when the male-dominated state controlled their bodies and their fate.

or many decades men used the power of the state to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies. Once legal, abortion was outlawed in the late 19th century, and women who sought one were treated as sinners and criminals. Many women — some 2 million a year in the 1890s alone — defied the coercive power of patriarchal and paternalistic government to obtain abortions.

Women of means were sometimes able to find a doctor to help, but all the others had to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. They swallowed potent concoctions of turpentine, bleach and detergents; jabbed coat hangers, bicycle spokes and knitting needles into their vaginas; or had lye, soap and potassium permanganate squirted into their uteruses. Botched attempts caused injury to thousands of women a year, and many were rendered infertile. As late as the mid-’60s every large municipal hospital in the US had a “septic ward” filled with women suffering from infections. Some women leapt from stairs or roofs trying to end a pregnancy.

On Jan. 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court decided, “Enough’s enough,” and abruptly declared abortion legal. In deciding Roe v. Wade, the court held that because the Constitution protects the right to privacy, in the earlier months of pregnancy, a woman can legally choose to abort.

Conservatives reacted ferociously, and in the 44 years since the ruling, the Republican Party, dominated by the religious and political right, has crusaded to nullify Roe. Conservatives named to the Supreme Court for just this purpose have tried to whittle away at it, and according to the Guttmacher Institute, since the decision, states have enacted 1,074 restrictions aimed at limiting a woman’s access to legal abortion. In 2015 alone, conservative lawmakers considered nearly 400 bills to limit a woman’s access to legal abortion and passed 57 new restrictions.

With Donald Trump’s election a year ago, his appointment of right-wing judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and his embrace of the conservative strategy to fill lower courts with young, deeply conservative judges who pass the litmus test of vehemently opposing abortion, we are closer than ever to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, despite the fact that a majority of American adults say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Too often lost in the furor is the real experience of women who sought abortions when the male-dominated state controlled their bodies and fate. Recall that time and you understand why women (and men) today are organizing, lobbying and taking to the streets to declare, “Never Again!” Against the steamroller of the White House, the Republican Congress and the Christian right, all they have going for them is the courage to stay the course, the support of a multitude of kindred spirits — and memory.

Lest we forget the way things used to be, we invited several women — and one male doctor — to share their personal stories from both before Roe and afterward. I urge you to watch and listen, and to think about what will happen once again to women if women have NO CHOICE.


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+42 # margpark 2017-11-14 18:38
I hate how the conservatives ignore what happened to women before Roe vs Wade.
 
 
+44 # PABLO DIABLO 2017-11-14 18:58
The Government and Religion have no business in this issue. It should be strictly the woman and her doctor.
Did God really tell Adam & Eve, "Go forth and multiply"? When I was born (1941) there were 2 Billion people. Today we are approaching 8 Billion.
 
 
+32 # wrknight 2017-11-14 22:02
If religious groups can dictate government policy, then government should be able to interfere with religious groups. I would start with taxing the religious groups that attempt to dictate to the government.
 
 
+50 # economagic 2017-11-14 19:57
Too bad also that the people who press for these restrictions are called "conservative," when in fact they are extreme retrograde ideologues, still trying to turn back the clock on questions of human action that would even in a marginally democratic (or republican) society be deemed settled and therefore not open for discussion in the absence of significant new evidence not of the fake variety.
 
 
+27 # chemtex2611 2017-11-14 22:02
Why are Viagra and Cialis easy to get Rx's. They should be as carefully controlled as abortion and birth control pills. In fact there should be a tax on Viagra and Cialis to pay for birth control pills.
 
 
+16 # jimmythelark 2017-11-14 22:20
It is SAD that we live in a country that continually wants to turn back the clock - the HYPOCRITES who run our country say they are "religious" BULLSHIT !!! All these people want is to have a steady supply of bodies to do the low paying jobs - they don't want to pay a decent WAGE !! All they can think about is MAXIMIZING PROFIT - the more people out there looking for work- the lower wage they have to PAY and the less benefits for them to pay FOR !! What a racket ? It called GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICES !! _ They are the SCUM of the earth !! Where is DEXTER when we desperately need him " to take out the TRASH" We send our military "BOYS' off to war and they KILL Millions of people (men, women and CHILDREN ) because we want to free them and give them DEMOCRACY !! FREE them !! What a JOKE !! View the DOCU on Neftlix- Watching Them Die 2015 Dir.Coizta Grecko 43 young teachers killed by the GOVERNMENT , the military police, and the Drug Cartels and then BURNT and PULVERIZED -no body no crime- nobody gives a SHIT !! Mexico doesn't need educated workers Just manual LABORERS !! It keeps wages LOW !! The "RICH" want all the MONEY for themselves!! Don't educate workers - KEEP them in their PLACE !! The USA is moving in the same DIRECTION !! What we (USA) and Mexico need is a REVOLUTION !!! What a world we live in !! We need BERNIE to start the REVOLUTION !! God BLESS BERNIE!!! LONG LIVE BERNIE !!!
 
 
+27 # treerapper 2017-11-15 03:44
It's quite interesting that we have such an obsession over the sanctity of the fetus but we care so little about what happens after the fetus is hatched. The very same people who want to make all abortive procedures illegal will happily send that child off to war so the rich can continue to get richer on the backs of the poor or misguided. Where is their concern for the sanctity of the life of that 18 or 19 or 20 year old? Why is life only sacred as long as it's in the womb and once it's out, we can abuse the hell out of it for our own abusive purposes?

Too many very twisted brothers calling the shots here. Where's that cesspool???
 
 
+20 # relegn 2017-11-15 07:26
The anti-abortion "movement" was started and no doubt continues as a program to raise money and create political influence. After Roe vs. Wade there was no civic outcry, of any size, over the decision. It was only later that a "pro-life" movement became known. Like the NRA,which in the 60's was a tiny organisation,mo ney has flowed in to create a political monster whose real goal is unknown.
 
 
+21 # Wise woman 2017-11-15 12:24
The more we violate the separation of church and state, the deeper into the swamp we sink. A theocracy is the worst enemy of women, the expression of free thought and is anti science. This has been proven time and again. It is time for men of conscience to step up and fight this battle. It can't be women's alone to do.
 
 
+11 # longingfortruth 2017-11-15 18:10
The only reason to decide that life begins at conception is to allow for the maximum control of women's bodies. No human knows when the soul enters the body. Only God knows. The need for certainty in religion lacks humility. What arrogance to claim to know the mind of God and take from women their God given free will.
 
 
0 # Sam Seaman 2017-11-16 21:32
One of the main tenets of the Christian faith is a belief in the immortality of the soul. How or when the soul enters the fetus should not be of concern in the context of abortion.
 

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