Book Review: Perilous Times by Fran Moreland Johns


Available on Amazon

YBK Publishers has released a new book entitled Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before—and After—Roe v Wade, by Fran Moreland Johns. Johns shares the story of her own abortion and uses this narrative to connect with other women who have shared similar experiences. While I was reading Perilous Times, I was often reminded of the film Dirty Dancing, where one of the dancers is taken for a back alley abortion and almost dies. I was also reminded of the film Jane: An Abortion Service, where women in Chicago took it upon themselves to help women receive safe, albeit illegal, abortions before Roe v. Wade. Needless to say, I was very drawn into the book, and couldn’t put it down all weekend.

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Fran Moreland Johns. I hope you find her motivation to write the book as inspirational as I did.

1.  In the introduction you say that you never shared your story with anyone (except for your friend Trish) before you started writing Perilous Times. What prompted you to “come out of the closet,” so to speak?

Trish and I had talked often about how those of us who survived abortion in those grim pre-Roe days are dying off fast, and so many stories will never be told. Then I began to see abortion access being denied – particularly this is the case for women without money or resources – in state after state, and I thought this is all I can do to slow that backward movement: tell the stories of women today who are suffering just as much as we did before 1973.  [Read more...]

North Dakota’s “Heartbeat Law” Temporarily Blocked

We’ve written before about North Dakota’s attempts to pass the most restrictive abortion law in the nation: a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which can be as early as the sixth week of pregnancy. The law was scheduled to take effect on August 1.

Yesterday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the law from going into effect. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote that:

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion … (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

Dispatches from Abortionland

Today’s post, the final is our Roe v. Wade series, is by guest contributor Sarah Cohen, who worked at the National Abortion Federation hotline for several years and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

Once you move to abortionland, there’s no moving back. Once you start thinking hard about abortion, it touches everything—it’s like a new lens that you see the world through. I can turn any conversation into a conversation about abortion. I see the links to it everywhere—in poverty, the social safety net (or lack thereof), education levels, unemployment, race, urban-rural divides, gender relations, religion, and just about every other dimension of modern life.

I moved to abortionland almost five years ago, when I began working on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline. I’d been pro-choice my whole life, and I’d been interested in abortion politics for a long time, but this was brand new. I did options counseling, I looked up clinics and gave out their phone numbers, I talked about money with all kinds of women. I stayed after my shift ended almost every day, thinking I could take just a few more calls and help just a few more women before going home.

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Beyond Abortion: Roe v. Wade and the Right to Privacy

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wadedecision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

Today’s guest post is by Emily Martin, Vice-President and General Counsel, National Women’s Law Center; and Cortelyou Kenney, a Fellow at the Center.

What most people know about Roe v. Wade is that it is the landmark decision establishing a woman’s right to end a pregnancy. What is less well known is that the decision strengthened the legal foundation on which other protections are based as well. In Roe, the Supreme Court solidified the “right to privacy” as part of the liberty protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. This protection of liberty and privacy is responsible for certain fundamental guarantees—including the rights to obtain birth control and to procreate, to marry, to develop family relationships, to rear one’s children, and to create intimate relationships. While the concept of a constitutional “right to privacy” predates Roe, Roe is an important affirmation of and foundation for these rights—rights that could be threatened if it were overturned.

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40 Years Later–What the Roe?

For Khan ArticleJanuary 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. But 40 years later, does the ruling matter? The easy answer is no. While American women still have the right to have an abortion, many cannot exercise that right. Abortion opponents have successfully reduced women’s access to clinics that perform the procedure and placed unneccesary restrictions on many of the clinics that do. Four states have only one abortion clinic, the past two years have seen a record amount of antiabortion legislation passed in state legislatures, and 2013 is already promising more of the same.

But easy answers never tell the whole story. If they did, we would have stopped arguing about abortion ages ago–right around the time “Abortion is Murder” met “My Body, My Choice.” The uneasy answer is that Roe v. Wade very much matters in 2013 … except when it doesn’t.

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I’m Pro-Choice (And So Can You!)


Today’s guest post, which was written for Blog for Choice Day, comes from Saira Khan. Saira currently works in publishing but dedicates her free time to social commentary on her personal blog. She will be Master of Science candidate at Columbia University in Fall 2013. Follow her on twitter @sairakh.

I was raised in Pakistan, where abortion is illegal. So as you can imagine, there’s a big market for illegal abortions there, and it’s horrific.

In 2012, Nele Obermueller reported for The Guardian:

“Shamin was not married when she got pregnant. Rather than face the shame of being a single mother in Pakistan, she secretly sought out an untrained birth attendant who gave Shamin anti-malaria pills to induce an abortion. ‘But part of the baby stayed inside – and my Shimi got an infection,’ says Jino, who works as a maid in the province Punjab. ‘That’s when she came to me and told me everything. I took her to a clinic but it was too late. She died that same day.’

“Shamin’s story is common in Pakistan, where, according to estimates by the Guttmacher Institute, 890,000 women have unsafe abortions annually. Eight hundred of these women will die and a further 197,000 will be hospitalised due to complications. ‘However even these figures are a gross underestimation, as so many cases go unreported,’ says Nighat Khan from the Guttmacher’s research team in Pakistan.”

As Obermueller indicates, Shamin is not alone in Pakistan. [Read more...]

Celebrate Roe v Wade!

The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade just a week away, and a slew of events are planned across the country and online. To see what’s in your area, check out Words of Choice’s roundup of events, some of which are already underway and others that will continue beyond January 22nd.




Abortion 101: What to Know Before You Go

Today’s post comes courtesy of FFC contributor Sarah Erdreich and guest contributor Sarah Cohen, who worked at the National Abortion Federation hotline for several years and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

When you work in reproductive rights, people pepper you with practical questions about getting an abortion. How much does the procedure cost? How long does it take? Does it hurt? While the answers vary depending on the particular circumstances, there are a few tips you should know.

First, confirm that you actually are pregnant. This might sound obvious, but as many of us know, it’s surprisingly easy to lose track of when your last normal period occurred. If a home pregnancy test shows a positive result, you are probably pregnant; home test kits rarely give a false positive. If a home pregnancy test shows a negative result, it’s possible that you’re too early for the test to detect a pregnancy. Most test kits come with two in the package, so wait a few days and, if you still think you might be pregnant, take the second test. [Read more...]

Sweden During the Time of Roe v. Wade

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

Ever since its enactment, the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade has been frequently debated as anti-choicers fiercely battle to overturn the decision, while pro-choice activists fight to maintain women’s rights to abortion. Even though legislature in some other countries may not be as famous or as controversial as Roe, they are equally important to women’s choices and reproductive rights.

Growing up in Sweden, we will focus on Sweden’s present abortion law, which was put into place two years after Roe. The first law concerning abortion in Sweden was presented in 1938 when women were allowed abortion on specific grounds, namely due to health reasons (when the woman’s life was in danger); if the woman became pregnant during rape; if a minor was taken advantage of sexually; or if the parents were likely to pass on a disease or disorder that would render the child with severe difficulties. However, parts of the law were based on eugenics–for example, if the mother availed of abortion due to “unfitting genes,” she was also sterilized.

The current abortion law was passed in 1975 and is the one most closely related to Roe, both in time and content. This law states that a woman can have an abortion without naming the reason until week 18. After that she will need to consult with the National Board of Health and Welfare in order to obtain permission to end her pregnancy. After week 22 the child is believed to be able to survive outside the mother’s body (parallel to the concept of viability in Roe) and abortion is no longer allowed. There is no age limit in regards to abortion, but if the woman is under 18 years old, it is recommended that she consults with her parent/parents or guardian.  [Read more...]

Is Roe Taken for Granted?

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

Time’s recent cover story on the challenges faced by the pro-choice movement in the four decades after Roe, “What Choice,” couldn’t come at a better time. As the anniversary of Roe approaches at the end of this month, it seems appropriate not just to examine the current state of abortion rights and restrictions, but the other obstacles that the pro-choice movement is facing—in particular, the idea of a generational divide among activists. (Full disclosure: Kate Pickert, the author of “What Choice,” interviewed me for this article, but my quotes were not in the finished piece.)

By highlighting the work of the Red River Women’s Clinic—the only clinic in North Dakota that provides abortion services—readers were given an engaging picture of just how difficult it can be for women to access a legal medical service. The graphics accompanying the piece also made this point quite clearly.

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