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.


Remembering Sarah Neivert


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 result.


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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Last modified:  01/02/2015