Reproductive Freedom Project
Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 8:48 am
A special statement from the ACLU of
Kentucky Reproductive Freedom Project
January 22, 2013 marked
the 40th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The decision, which legalized abortion nationwide,
also set an important precedent: that
government should not intrude on private, family matters. The American Civil Liberties Union of
Kentucky has been the primary challenger of Kentucky laws that seek to restrict
abortion rights, even before the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade.
Sunday, January 20, 2013, 9:04 pm
ACLU of Kentucky Communications Manager Amber G. Duke wrote this op-ed as part of the Louisville Courier Journal 's special coverage of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Jan. 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s
landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. The decision, which legalized abortion
nationwide, also set an important precedent: that government should not
intrude on private, family matters.
course, we don’t all feel the same way about abortion. Conversations
about abortion inflame passions and spark debates in all areas of our
society from the halls of the statehouse, the pews of our churches and
under the dryers in hair salons. However, the facts show these are
conversations that we need to be having, especially in the
to the Guttmacher Institute, an independent nonprofit organization that
provides nonpartisan information on sexual and reproductive health,
African- American women experience unintended pregnancies, abortions and
unplanned birth rates at levels much higher than any other racial group
in the United States. Experts say the disparities in reproductive
health reflect broader social and economic disparities in our society.
As civil rights activists work to address the effects of structural
racism in our neighborhoods, schools, places of employment and on our
access to health care, the sheer number of African-American women
deciding to seek abortions requires these same activists devote time and
attention specifically to reproductive health issues.
elected officials, at all levels of government, have used abortion as a
tool to divide us and keep us from having more fruitful conversations.
We all may feel differently about abortion, but our real focus should be
on finding ways to work together to make it less common.
should demand that our elected leaders spend time looking at policies
that would provide more and better access to reproductive health —
especially in underserved communities of color — instead of drafting
legislation that would force women to have mandatory ultrasounds, or
regulate the conversations they have with their doctors. We need our
elected leaders to spend time working on economic policies that would
put women on stable financial ground as they make family planning
decisions. We need comprehensive sexuality education in our schools to
ensure young men and women have the information they need about their
offer an opportunity for us to both reflect on what has been and look
ahead to what could be. Instead of focusing on our differences, let us
use the 40th anniversary of the Roe ruling as an opportunity to find
areas of common ground and to move forward together.
Sunday, January 20, 2013, 9:00 pm
ACLU of Kentucky RFP Director Derek Selznick wrote this op-ed as part of special Louisville Courier Journal coverage of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling.
I recently became a father. Last summer, my wife and I welcomed our
daughter, our first child, into our lives. I have spent my entire career
dedicated to providing reproductive health care and advancing
reproductive freedom for all people. I have lobbied for reproductive
rights in Colorado, Kentucky and Washington, trained clinicians on
serving patients from diverse backgrounds and have testified before our
legislature in Frankfort. Yet, I never truly understood the fight for
reproductive justice until my wife became pregnant.
wife and I are truly blessed. We both have full-time employment that
provides us with a modest income and health insurance, wonderful
doctors, great families and an extended community of friends that offers
tremendous support. This pregnancy, a first for both of us, was planned
and eagerly anticipated. When my wife told me she was pregnant, I
literally fell to the floor laughing.
that initial burst of overwhelming joy faded, I also became quite
anxious. Like most expectant parents, questions filled our heads. What
if we miscarry? What if something terrible happens? Thankfully our
OB/GYN ushered us through the experience with grace and dignity.
was during these visits with our doctor that the importance of
reproductive freedom truly hit home. As she described the changes that
my wife would go through, the likely fetal development of our daughter,
and the challenges and landmarks of pregnancy, it occurred to me that
some in the Kentucky legislature want to regulate and interfere with
these intimate conversations between families and their doctors.
year, as in years past, members of the Kentucky legislature are
attempting to mandate the interactions between doctors and their
patients when a person seeks an abortion. Should these politicians have
their way, if my wife and I faced the horrifying decision to terminate
the pregnancy because it was not viable or my wife’s life was in danger,
we would be forced to hear a description of our wanted child against
our will before my wife would be able to receive an abortion. Instead of
providing individual, compassionate care, our doctor would be required
to provide a “script.”
am proud to say that our physician is one of the few doctors in this
state who, in addition to her services of delivering children, also
provides terminations. My wife and I took comfort knowing that whatever
happened, our doctor would be able to provide comprehensive reproductive
health care. Yet, all too often debates on the public policy of
abortion or other social issues rest on political pandering to the left
or right, without considering the experiences of the families and the
doctors they are trying to legislate.
day I look at my daughter and thank God for her. I also thank God the
Kentucky legislature had nothing to do with bringing her into this
world. Before my daughter was born, I was dedicated to my profession —
to fighting for reproductive justice. When I heard my daughter’s
heartbeat for the first time, my job became my vocation. When I became a
father, I became a zealot for reproductive freedom.
Sunday, January 20, 2013, 8:55 pm
The following is an edited version of comments Dr. Ann T. Allen made in
acceptance of the ACLU of Kentucky’s Thomas L. Hogan Award for her
contributions to the advancement and preservation of civil liberties. They appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal 1/20/13 as part of a special forum section on the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling.
American Civil Liberties Union’s work for reproductive rights continues
a tradition that began more than a century ago, when a few radicals
outraged respectable public opinion by declaring — in defiance of law,
custom and most religious beliefs — that a woman should have the right
and the means to control her fertility.
1913, 100 years ago, a nurse named Margaret Sanger worked at Henry
Street Settlement, on New York’s Lower East Side. She tells us in her
autobiography that, one hot summer day, she was called to the apartment
of a couple and their three children. The mother, Sadie Sachs, was
hemorrhaging from an abortion that she had induced by using some drugs
and an “instrument” that she had borrowed from a neighbor. Sanger called
in a physician and after much hard work they succeeded in saving Sadie
Sachs’ life. But, as the physician informed Sachs, another pregnancy
might well be fatal: “another caper like this, young lady, and there
will be no need to send for me.” When Sachs asked him how to prevent
further pregnancies, he joked that she would have to “tell Jake (her
husband) to sleep on the roof.” Sadie Sachs turned to Sanger and begged
her for the information, but Sanger had to say that she did not know. A
few months later, Sanger was called back to the same apartment, where
once again Sachs was bleeding from a botched abortion, and this time
Sanger could not save her.
Sachs may in fact have been a fictional character based on a composite
of several patients, Sanger had obviously seen plenty of women die this
She told this
story to make a point. Legislators and moralists often condemned birth
control — and some still do — as a threat to marriage and the family. On
the contrary, the lack of birth control had destroyed the Sachs family,
leaving Jake without a wife and their three children without a mother.
Sanger devoted the rest of her life to finding and providing
contraceptive methods that women could use, and to working to overcome
the laws that prohibited the advocacy and distribution of
contraceptives. At the end of her life, she sponsored the research that
led to the first birth-control pills.
This story, however, does not end happily.
of us, to be sure, are luckier than Sanger’s patients — for example,
in 1970 I had a safe abortion in a hospital. But women throughout the
world continue to die as Sanger’s patients died a century ago.
We must therefore continue our work for reproductive freedom, and I am proud to be part of that work.
Dr. Ann Taylor Allen has served as an ACLU of Kentucky board member for 15 years.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 11:54 am
This letter to the editor appeared in the July 20th edition of the Courier-Journal.
In a June 7 Op-Ed in The Courier-Journal, leaders of
University Hospital, Jewish/St. Mary's Hospitals and St. Joseph Health
System declared that the merger of their institutions would aid the
community and would not result in a “reduction in services available to
the community ... includ[ing] family planning and reproductive health
But they failed to identify how the newly merged entity
would ensure the continued availability of such services, particularly
in light of the Catholic Ethical Directives (ERDs) — the religious-based
directives largely banning those services in Catholic-owned hospitals.
We raised this question, and others, in a June 16 letter to the editor
and called upon University Hospital officials to be more transparent
about the effects on reproductive health services that will result from
the merger and what plans, if any, they have to maintain the current
level of health services to Louisville's poor.
Sadly, Sunday's article in The Courier-Journal confirmed
that those services will be discontinued at University Hospital — a
state-created hospital funded by state and local tax dollars — which
will, as a result of the merger, effectively operate as a Catholic, not
public, institution. As was highlighted in the article, University
Hospital will no longer offer tubal ligations to women due to the ERDs.