Abortion Law Repeal, Sort Of

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“Abortion Law Repeal (sort of)” first appeared in the in­cred­ibly influential Women’s Liberation Movement anthology, Notes from the Second Year (May 1970), and then was reprinted, in condensed form, in the New Left movement magazine Ramparts (August 1970). It was later anthologized, in an even more condensed form, in DEAR SISTERS: Dispatches from the Wo­men’s Liberation Movement (2000). This text is based on the version that appears in Notes from the Second Year.

“One of the few things that everyone in the women’s movement seems to agree on is that we have to get rid of the abortion laws and make sure that any woman who wants an abortion can get one. We all recognize how basic this demand is. . . But just because it sounds so simple and obvious and is such a great point of unity, a lot of us haven’t really looked below the surface of the abortion fight and seen how complicated it may be to get what we want.

“In our disgust with the extreme oppression women experience under the present abortion laws, many of us are understandably tempted to accept insulting token changes that we would angrily shout down if they were offered to us in any other field of the struggle for women’s liberation. . . . These restrictions insult women in the same way the present ‘preservation-of-life’ laws do: they assume that we must be in a state of tutelage and cannot assume responsibility for our own acts. . . . There are many reasons why a woman might seek a late abortion. . . whatever her reasons, she belongs to herself and not to the state.

“All women are oppressed by the present abort­ion laws, by old-style ‘reforms,’ and by seductive new fake repeal bills and court decisions. But the possibility of fake repeal–if it becomes reality—is the most dangerous. It can buy off most middle class women and make them believe things have really changed, while it leaves poor women to suffer and keeps us all saddled with abortion laws for years to come. It is up to feminists to make the strongest and most precise demands. . . We will not accept insults and call them ‘steps in the right direction.’ . . .”

Lucinda Cisler is a libertarian feminist activist, and a leading force in the early years of the Women’s Liberation Movement. She was a member of New York Radical Women, NYC-NOW, East Coast Chair of NOW’s National Abortion Committee, and a founding member of New Yorkers for Abortion Law Repeal (NYALR), the National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws (NARAL), and the Association of Libertarian Feminists (ALF). She compiled and circulated a “legend­ary” movement biblio­graphy of works about women. The editors of Notes from the Second Year wrote that she “is the foremost expert on abortion in the feminist movement. For years she has fought tirelessly (and without pay) for women’s right to control their own bodies. She is also important in the movement for her excellent and com­pre­hens­ive bibliography.”

Introduced September 2014.

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