“In Defense of Roe” is a film documenting the groundbreaking 1989 conference that brought together leaders of the growing women of color reproductive rights movement with grassroots and progressive white women.
The conference was called in part as a response to the fact that mainstream groups who were organizing a march on Washington had not included this leadership in the planning or organizing of the march. I was the lead organizer for this conference that was sponsored by the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights (RCAR) and RCAR's Women of Color Partnership Program. This conference would not have been possible without the support of Loretta Ross and the work she had done identifying and developing women of color reproductive rights leadership as NOW’s Director of Women of Color Programs in the 1980’s and as the organizer of the first National Conference on Women of Color and Reproductive Rights held in 1986 at Howard University. Ms. Ross’ support, including lists of women of color leaders and activists, provided key sources of participants and supporters for the event.
Lillie Allen, co-founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project and, eventually the founder of Be Present, Inc. had provided training, through her workshops Black and Female, What is the Reality™, and Sisters & Allies™, to many of the people who attended and participated in the conference. I attribute the success of this event, in part, to the training many of us who were there had received from Ms. Allen. (bepresent.org/)
Filmmaker Lori Hiris donated an extraordinary amount of time filming the conference and then editing the film. Together, we spent many long hours late at night (when Lori was able to get access to the filmmaking equipment) to transform a two-day conference into a 36 minute summary that tried to do justice to this groundbreaking event.
Core Planning Committee members for the conference were: Christina Caballero, Faith Evans, Sabrae Jenkins, Lynn M. Paltrow, Loretta Ross, Chung Seto and Patricia Tyson. A full list of all the speakers and participants appears at the end of the film.
This conference provided inspiration for the book, From Abortion to Reproductive Freedom: Transforming a Movement, Editor Marlene Gerber Fried (1990), and is discussed in Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, by Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross , and Elena Gutierrez (2004).
About the title, "In Defense of Roe":
I want to explain that I would not today call this event or the video about it “In Defense of Roe.” With the benefit of time, and more than two decades of political action focused narrowly on the defense of abortion (the procedure) and Roe (the Supreme Court decision) it is now very clear that what needs to be defended is not one procedure, one woman, or one court decision – but rather the human and civil rights of all pregnant woman. This insight is one of the reasons why, in 2001, I founded National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW), an organizations that provides reproductive justice legal advocacy combined with organizing and public education.
Loretta Ross and others who attended this conference and who are featured in the video went on to define and lead the movement for Reproductive Justice.
To learn more about Reproductive Justice please go to:
Additional resources by participants who spoke at and/or who made the conference possible include:
Ninia Baehr, Abortion without Apology: A Radical History for the 1990s (1999)
Lori Hiris, With a VengeanceThe Fight for Reproductive Freedom (1989)
Jael Silliman and Ynestra King, Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development (1999)
Jael Silliman, Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women's Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope (2003)
Lynn M. Paltrow
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
May 11, 2011
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