A mostly female audience filled the Plaza Theatre Sept. 8 to be educated, inspired and motivated to fight for women’s reproductive rights.
The program was co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the National Council of Jewish Women Atlanta section, the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, Planned Parenthood and others. It started with a screening of award-winning documentary “Jane: An Abortion Service,” which reminded the audience what life was like before 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled abortion is legal.
The one-hour informative film was followed by a Q&A with Heather Booth, who launched “Jane” in Chicago in the 1960s to find ways to help women get safe abortions, despite being illegal. Ultimately, 12,000 women were provided safe abortions between 1968 and 1973. Today, despite the groundbreaking case, Roe v. Wade, 84 percent of all U.S. counties don’t have abortion clinics, and an increasing number of states are making access to abortions more difficult.
Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU of Georgia, told the AJT that it was important to sponsor the program for two reasons. “One, to help young people know what’s at stake with these anti-reproductive rights measures. It’s been 46 years since abortion was ruled legal,” she said. “And two, to bring the community together with male allies, as well, who are so passionate” about this issue.
Young said she had no problem lining up a long list of co-sponsors for the program. “Before I could even get the question out,” she said, people said “yes. People are very excited that we’re doing this as we’re gearing up for the legislative year. The ticket sales are going to help pay for the legal case.”
She was referring to ACLU’s legal challenge of one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws. In May, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the so-called “fetal heartbeat” law, effectively banning abortion after six weeks.
Young noted that the ACLU filed for a preliminary injunction against the law, with the first hearing to be held Sept. 23.
Opening the program, Young stressed that “women have the right to make these decisions [about abortions] for ourselves. We are not going back” to what life was like before Roe v. Wade.
Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, noted that all three states under her group’s jurisdiction – Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi – passed restrictive abortion bans. She also pointed out that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s oldest and largest provider of family planning services, has 13 million members, or about double the number of members of the National Rifle Association.
“Remember, bans don’t stop abortions,” she stated. “They stop safe abortions.”
Booth told the crowd that she is “cautiously optimistic that we will stop these bans. This is an attack on women at the core. Women should not be a political bargaining chip.” During the Q&A, Booth also made a point of acknowledging the role Jews have played in fighting for social justice, including the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
When asked why it was important for Jewish women to be involved in the program, Sherry Frank, president of NCJW in Atlanta, said “because we’ve been involved since the beginning. NCJW worked in the suffragette movement. We had offices to help with immigrants coming in at Ellis Island. We worked in getting Russian Jews here. We’ve been involved with all of these issues.” She added that her organization’s next meeting, Nov. 7, will focus on voting rights.