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“We Have Had Abortions”

Boldly Declared in the Pages of Ms.

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In 1972, when the premiere issue of Ms. magazine was published, abortion was still illegal in most of the United States. Nonetheless, several dozen women chose to sign their names to “We Have Had Abortions,” a statement declaring that they had each, in fact, had an abortion. 

A Call For Change

“We Have Had Abortions” was a petition to the national government and a way to raise awareness. It was also an attempt to bring about social change. One tactic used to keep restrictions on abortion in place was making abortion discussion “taboo.” Barbaralee Diamonstein, the author of the piece, wanted to release the subject from this taboo. The goal of publishing the list was to take the abortion issue out of secrecy and into the public sphere and public consciousness.

Real Women Have Had Abortions

Illegal abortions caused the deaths of thousands of women every year. More than 50 women signed the “We Have Had Abortions” statement and requested readers to join them in a “campaign for honesty and freedom.” The well-known women included famous feminist Gloria Steinem and other prominent figures such as Nora Ephron, Lee Grant, Lillian Hellman , Billie Jean King and Anais Nin.

Abortion Rights as a Feminist Issue

The founders of Ms. and other feminist activists of the 1960s and early 1970s worked hard to bring attention to the issue of reproductive freedom. The lifting of restrictions on abortion became one of the demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement. One year after the Ms. premiere issue, in 1973, the Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v. Wade, which struck down many abortion laws and legalized first trimester and some later abortions.

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