Earlier this week, women’s health advocate Jean Pakter passed away in New York at age 101. The Manhattan born-and-bred physician began working for the city in the 1950s, and was the head of the bureau of maternity services and family planning for the city’s health department from 1960 to 1982.
Jean Pakter’s research and advocacy work helped create a safer, healthier society – not just for women and children, but for families. Dr. Pakter led innovative efforts to educate women about the benefits of breast-feeding, birth control, and prenatal nutrition, and established an influential protocol for treating premature babies. Yet an equally important part of Pakter’s legacy is her work on abortion rights. During her early years working for the city, Pakter was responsible for compiling reports about abortion, including the number of women killed or injured through illegal abortions. Dr. Pakter supported New York’s 1970 law that made abortion legal in the state, and played an important role in establishing the guidelines and rules for the abortion clinics that subsequently opened. Justice Harry Blackmun cited a report written by Dr. Pakter and her colleagues in his majority decision on Roe v. Wade, and other studies by Pakter were used for initiatives around poverty and children in the 1960s.
This influential advocate also spearheaded other, more light-hearted studies, including when the most popular months were for getting pregnant in New York City. Her 1969 study revealed that the fall months were when women were most likely to conceive: September and October, followed by November and December.
Sarah's first book, Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement, will be out March 2013. For more information, follow her on Twitter @saraherdreich, or check out saraherdreich.com.