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16 October 2006

Magazine launches pro-choice petition

As the South Dakota vote on abortion approaches, Ms magazine publishes 5000 names.

More than 5000 women from across the USA have revealed that they have had abortions, in advance of South Dakota’s November vote on abortion, the UK Guardian reported on 7 October. The list, published in the feminist magazine Ms, includes its co-founder Gloria Steinem, the actor Kathy Najimy and comedian Carol Leifer. But most of the names are of women who simply worry that the tide is turning against legal abortions in America.

South Dakota votes on 7 November on whether to overturn a state law banning virtually all abortions, including those undergone for reasons of rape, incest or a woman’s health. Only abortions needed to prevent the woman’s death are permitted under the law. Should the ban be upheld in the vote it would then be passed up to the supreme court and be used to challenge Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 judgment that overrides all state-level bans on the grounds of individual freedom.

‘The right of access to safe abortions in America is under direct threat,’ said Ms magazine’s executive editor, Katherine Spillar. The Ms petition echoes previous public protests. The launch edition of Ms in 1972 ran the names of 53 well-known US women who declared they had had abortions. That in turn was modelled on the action a year previously of 343 prominent French women.

Anti-abortionists have dismissed the petition. Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, said that when she first saw the petition ‘the evil practically jumped off the page’.

We’ve had abortions, say 5,000 Americans as crucial vote nears, Guardian, 7 October 2006
We Had Abortions, Ms, Fall 2006