abortions legal but

Abortions are Legal, But...

(1973) Women in Chicago still faced problems even after Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion in 1973.

(From Womankind July 1973)

(Editor's Note: The Abortion Task Force was organized as a workgroup of the CWLU after Roe v. Wade effectively legalized abortion.)

It was a “stormy session” there at the June 20th meeting of the Chicago Board of Health, reported the Chicago Tribune. The ATF had come to present criticisms of the recent abortion clinic regulations. But, it became clear that Dr. Eric Oldberg, President of the Board and the Board had already made up their minds on everything.

Our crowd of 51 became frustrated and disruptive, finally walking out of the meeting. The ATF had met with Dr. Oldberg several weeks before, to discuss objections to the regulations, and he agreed that the ATF’s suggested changes were “reasonable” and said that he would work to bring the Board around. Though we had trusted him to be on our side, changes presented to the Board were minimal.

At the Board meeting, some of the arguments we presented for changing the regulations were the following:

1) The regulations required a 48-hour “think it over” wait for the woman between the physical exam and tests and the abortion itself. We objected to this as medically unnecessary and, from our experiences through ACS, psychologically unnecessary.

Most women have made up their minds firmly and carefully and do not need to be told to think it over again. This wait would also be a great handicap and expense to women for out of Chicago or with young children or working – all those who historically have had great difficulty getting safe, inexpensive abortions. The Board changed the 48 hours to 24 – we still objected but the Board was rigid.

During the discussion it became clear that they lay people on the board were just following the lead of the doctors, and certainly were not representing health consumers – and least of all, women – with any independent opinion. The Board members were able to treat our concerns casually because they are appointed by Mayor Daley for life, and have little to fear from us.

2) The regulations contained a requirement for a full pathological examination of the removed tissue. And our experiences and medical consultants felt this was medically unnecessary and expensive ($10-40). The Board seemed concerned about detecting obscure medical problems while there was no provision in the regulations for VD or cancer tests. The only woman on the Board came to support us on this point.

3) The regulations called for certain unspecified but extensive equipment be provided in each room where abortions are preformed. The Board agreed with us that one set of this equipment was sufficient for a whole clinic, but refused to change the wording. They insisted that the real meaning was understood and that inspectors wouldn’t be arbitrary about it. We continued to object because we know how city inspectors can hassle people around technicalities and vague rules.

We felt badly that we had been only partly successful in changing the abortion regulations. But we are determined to learn for this experience – to mobilize our allies such as doctors to support us openly and to plan other meetings to better focus on the most important points and really fight for them strongly.