The following is an expanded
version of a Facebook post by chapter member Alan Gross on
January 22, 2013, the 40th anniversary of the Supreme
Court's Roe v. Wade decision which legalized abortion
(with some limitations) in all states.
Today I am remembering Sarah Neivert,
my great grandmother, who died in New York City in 1899. I
don't know much about her. She must have been between 25
and 30 years of age. Her death left two young daughters, a
1 year old and my grandmother, only 6 years old. Sarah died of
an attempted self-induced abortion.
I have not researched the medical and
legal status of abortion in 1899. My guess is that
abortion was legal, but that it was neither safe nor accessible.
Certainly, the politics of abortion as we know them today were
not present. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned
Parenthood, turned 20 years old that year, so knowledge of
contraception was not widely available. Medical
capabilities were not what they are today, either. This
was three decades before even penicillin was discovered.
In spite of all this, Sarah was desperate enough with her new,
unplanned pregnancy that she tried to terminate it and died as a
The sad story of Sarah Neivert
personalizes what abortion supporters today say, that Roe v.
Wade didn't enable women to have abortions. Women have
always had abortions. Roe v. Wade allowed those
abortions to come out of the dangerous back-alley shadows and
into a legal, safe, and accessible medical environment.
Today, on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v.
Wade decision, let us all remember that when abortion is not
safe, legal, and accessible, women die.
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