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Washington, DC -- Pamela Mason, Leni Silverstein and Ellen Levine had abortions before Roe v. Wade made abortion safe and legal, and they shared their stories to mark the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade. In a call Thursday, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Renee Bracey Sherman of the National Network of Abortion Funds also spoke about the stakes for women’s access to safe, legal abortion in 2016 and dire consequences for women when politicians restrict access to abortion. In the biggest abortion case in decades, the Supreme Court could determine the fate of women’s fundamental right to access safe, legal abortion in the United States.

“The stakes for women’s access to safe, legal abortion in 2016 are higher than ever, with the U.S. Supreme Court soon hearing the biggest abortion case in decades. On the 43rd anniversary of Roe, we are reminded of what life was like for women before safe and legal abortion--and what could again become a reality for many women across the country,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We refuse to allow politicians to take us back--and that’s why we’re speaking out alongside Pamela, Leni, Ellen and women across the country. Their stories are a cautionary tale for politicians threatening to take women back to a time before abortion was safe and legal. Today, more than ever, these stories need to be heard, because we cannot and we will not go back“

Below are excerpts of the stories shared on Thursday’s call. Please find the full remarks here.

Pamela Mason:

“Planned Parenthood referred me to a clinic in New York City [where abortion was legal] — an eight-hour, 500-mile trip from Columbus.  My boyfriend and I drove straight there without stopping…. After the procedure, we drove right back home — against medical advice.  I had to drive some of the way. ...I consider myself fortunate...Many women suffered physical damage, and some died [from illegal abortions]. I was lucky because I was able to end the pregnancy without physical harm and move forward with my life.”

Dr. Leni Silverstein:

“Because abortion was illegal, I had to turn to an underground abortion provider. I was told to meet at a location in downtown Chicago.  When I got there, I was blindfolded and driven to an undisclosed location. I was incredibly scared. ...No woman should have to go through  when abortion was illegal and very often unsafe.”

Ellen Levine:

“Upon arrival, and having no idea where I had been taken, I met the man who was to perform my abortion. He was remote, distant, as was his assistant who coldly instructed me to remove my clothing and put on a hospital gown. Already feeling very vulnerable and powerless, I was given general anesthesia. I remember nothing of the procedure itself. Upon awakening, disoriented and in considerable discomfort, I dressed as quickly as possible. On the plane back to Burlington, I thought about how I could have died, alone....Many young women in my situation died. Please, please, have mercy. Keep abortion safe and legal.”

Renee Bracey Sherman, Policy Representative, National Network of Abortion Funds:

“While Roe v. Wade guaranteed the right to an abortion, legislation passed across the states has chipped away at the promise of Roe and placed it out of reach for so many. If states continue to pass these devastating laws, our callers [to National Network of Abortion Funds] will continue to be denied safe abortion care and will be forced into situations much like the pre-Roe stories. Without resources, abortion access is not a reality. This is a reality communities of color cannot afford.”

For more than forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that under Roe v. Wade, the constitution protects every woman’s right to make her own personal medical decisions about abortion. Despite the public’s overwhelming support for women’s access to safe, legal abortion, politicians have made it clear they will stop at nothing to end access. According to data from Guttmacher, politicians at the state level have passed 288 restrictions on safe, legal abortion since the 2010 elections. In fact, one-quarter of all abortion restrictions enacted since Roe have been passed in the last 5 years.

Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support access to safe and legal abortion. A recent Bloomberg Politics national poll found that 67 percent of Americans surveyed said the Supreme Court was right to rule that women have a constitutional right to abortion and agree with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. A VOX/PerryUndem poll found that more Americans consider themselves pro-choice than pro-life. Sixty-eight percent of Millennials don't want to see Roe overturned, and 72 percent of Republicans think abortion should be available.

Speakers may be available for interviews upon request.


Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With over 650 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.


Planned Parenthood Federation of America


Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433


January 22, 2016