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Houston Breakthrough, February 1979
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Houston Breakthrough, February 1979 - Page 8. February 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. December 10, 2019. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6029/show/6005.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(February 1979). Houston Breakthrough, February 1979 - Page 8. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6029/show/6005

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, February 1979 - Page 8, February 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed December 10, 2019, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6029/show/6005.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, February 1979
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date February 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 8
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Transcript by Barbara Farrar Karkabi and Shirley Kowitz By March 10, the state of Texas may join 17 other states whose legislatures have asked that the Constitution ban abortions. Texas women may be the next to lose the right to choose if even one of four bills now being considered by the state legislature in Austin becomes law. These and other facts were presented to a group of 120 women who gathered at an all-day Pro-Choice Anniversary Workshop held recently at the University of Houston and sponsored by 11 local organizations. The seminar which included several lectures and a series of afternoon workshops met to reaffirm a woman's right to choose and to plan and discuss the most effective methods of combating the anti-choice movement. "The main thing I want to stress is that if you believe in the 'right to choose' then you are going to have to go out and protect it. We thought in our naivete that we had won the battle back in 1973, but really it had only just begun," Patricia Beyea, director of the National A merican Civil Liberties Union Campaign for Choice, told the group. Beyea has been traveling around the U.S., "going to the grass-roots" to make people realize that the right to choose must be defended. "Polls state that 80 per cent of the population believes in individual freedom. I admit that on the surface it doesn't look like that. But, it really is a vocal minority," she said. Before coming to Houston, Beyea went with an NBC crew to Amarillo, "to prove to them that the support was there." The meeting was held at a local church and nearly 400 people turned out, she says. "When individuals were asked if they were pro-choice," she recalls, "they replied that they were, but when the NBC crew asked them if they would say so on national television, they all refused. The truth is they were scared. The whole fight against the right to have an abortion is part of a very politically conservative atmosphere that is growing stronger every day," she said. It is not just an abortion issue, Beyea added. Family planning is being cut back as well as sex education. "These people are so concerned about unwanted fetuses. They should look into homes at all the unwanted children that exist," she said. Tracing the history of the erosion of abortion rights in the U.S., since the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, Beyea said that many groups including ACLU "fell into the trap" of not taking the opposition seriously. "We were really concentrating our efforts more on the ERA," she said. "But in 1977, our naivete came home to roost when the Supreme Court came out with two rulings:" ■ States cannot be required to pay for elective abortions. • Public hospitals are not required to perform non-theraputic abortion^. There was a tremendous public outcry against the rulings Beyea said, but Carter's response produced the biggest reaction. "He said probably one of the most cruel things I have ever heard, "It's too bad if the poor have to suffer, but life is unfair." There are three important issues to remember in the fight against a woman's right to choose, Beyea told the group. These are the Hyde Amendment, the Akron Ordinance and the move for a constitutional convention. "The passing of the Hyde Amendment made it virtually impossible for a woman to get an abortion on Medicaid," she said. The only exceptions to that rule made it virtually impossible for a woman to get an abortion on Medicaid," she said. The only exceptions to that rule are danger to the mother's life and health if the fetus is carried to full term and victims of rape or incest. "But," Beyea pointed out, "they are so strict about the proof that it discourages doctors and women from applying. The fact is that in Texas, before the Hyde Amendment was passed, there were 250 Medicaid abortions a month; now there are two. That's a drop of about 98 percent." The second issue, which Beyea says may be "the bane of my existence," is the Akron ordinance. Drawn up a year ago by the Citizens for Informed Consent, Beyea says that it can now be found "practically everywhere." The bill says that a doctor must counsel women requesting at )rtion that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. Further, he must show her a picture of a fetus and tell her that it experiences feeling. He must also counsel her of the psychological effects of abortion. Then there is a 24-hour waiting period and the woman must return with written consent from either parents or spouse. The ordinance also prohibits abortion facilities from being used in public hospitals or clinics. Perhaps the most frightening of all, Beyea says, are the resolutions calling for a constitutional convention. So far these resolutions have passed in 13 pro-life states, Beyea says, and if the resolution passes in 34 states the Congress is obliged to call a convention. "Beyond that," she said, "nobody knows what would happen because there is no precedent. The first and last Constitutional convention was in 1787, but it could really open a can of worms. We don't know if they would only address abortion, or if they could change other amendments. "I am convinced both publicly and privately that we are going to win the fight. We are going to have to work and work very hard in the next few months," she said. Exactly how much and how hard the work ahead is going to be, especially in the state of Texas, was discussed by the Rev. William B. Oliver III, lobbyist in Austin for the Texas Abortion Rights Action League (TARAL). The best way to lobby Texas legislators on abortions Oliver advised, is to write "an unending stream of letters" and become very familiar with local legislators and their staffs. The best strategy, Oliver said, is to tell your representative or senator that you would prefer that he never have to vote on the bill, and suggest that he block it in committee. "It only takes 11 senators to block any matter from reaching the floor. We must make sure that we line up 11 Senators to support our position and we don't have much time," he said. Oliver expressed the same tnougnts ai a workshop he conducted later in the afternoon, with Billie Carr, Democratic National Committeeperson and Debra Danburg, administrative aide to Ron Waters, state representative, District 79. Carr and Danburg both stressed the importance of "impacting the legislature" with letters, "not petitions, not form letters, they go in the garbage but original letters. If they receive 50 original letters in one day, they will get excited and pay some attention," Carr said. Personal lobbying should not be forgotten, Carr said. Any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, it is possible to go up to Austin and speak in front of a committee or visit with legislators and their staff, she added. "This system is open to all of you," she told the workshop. "You have a special unique clout of your own. Speak like the Pope and believe in what you say and they will listen to you." One afternoon workshop on the courts and abortion litigation led by attorneys JoAnn Doughtie, JoAnn Gerhardt, and Laura Holliday, produced a concensus of opinion among the participants that members of the legal profession should take the offensive in effecting legal changes in anti-abortion laws. "We have developed a defensive posture rather than an offensive posture in fighting anti-abortion laws," Doughtie said. "I think that if the courts say we must produce unwanted children, then the government should assume the burden of providing for these women and children by economic compensation for loss of earnings." Some 5,000-8,000 children are killed every year through child abuse, Doughtie said. The rights of children are not advocated by society. "It is a social problem before it is a legal one," Holliday said. "The problem comes to us as a legal problem in the form of drug abuse or shoplifting," Holliday said. Women are denied employment because of pregnancy and do not receive disability benefits for pregnancy, she elaborated. Men dominate the legislature and the courts, she added. "It frightens me that laws are created by men dictating to women what to do with their bodies," Holliday said. She also took the position that if government forces you to have a child, then that same government should supply economic support for the unwanted child. Gerhardt pointed out that the level of frustration experienced by a woman on welfare with five children is not understood by legislatures or men. "Until we get a change in social attitudes, the legal aspects on a case by case issue are not going to be effective," Gerhardt said. The battle dates back to English common law which held that a woman could not abort after "quickening" (16-18 weeks). There was a problem of viability even then, according to Gerhardt. The first abortion law in the United States was passed in 1821. Most states now have an abortion law that prohibits abortion unless it is necessary to save the life of the mother, according to Gerhardt. In 1970, there were 70 cases at all levels in the courts challenging these laws, but the Hyde amendment prohibiting Medicaid usage for abortions effectively overruled the cases, according to Doughtie. "We all know that a woman with economic resources can get an abortion even if she has to leave the country to do so. People who do not have economic resources can not," Doughtie concluded in her arguments for needed government support of abortion as a woman's rightful choice. "The picture is not bright as far as communication with the media is concerned," Nikki Van Hightower, former Women's Advocate in the city of Houston, told a group of 30 women and men assembled for a workshop in media and education. "The media is oriented towards the bizarre and unusual. It is male dominated and sexist in attitude. And the goal of the media is not education but to sell products," she continued. The three leaders of the Media and Education workshop, Hightower, Patricia Beyea, director, National ACLU Campaign for Choice, and Dr. Nanette J. Bruckner, associate professor, University of Houston, CLC, all felt that reaching the media with the message of a women's right to choose would not be an easy job. Hightower emphasized that she had been on both sides of the media, first as a newsmaker and now as a commentator on a local radio station. "There is a lack of sensitivity in the media," she said. "Look at the ghoulish attitude the media took about Barbara Jordan. All the newpeople tried to scoop the story that she might not live." Hightower explained that most media lives and dies by its ratings and it competes for attention by emphasizing the bizarre. The Pro-human life group has an advantage by using a word like murder in their campaign, she said. "We're offering reason, logic, and sen- sitivity-not the sort of thing the media likes," Hightower said. The tactics ultimately agreed upon by the participating members of the workshop included several suggestions. First, use some of the tactics of the anti- abortionists and talk about the bizarre, such as the horrors inflicted upon an unwanted, abused child. Second, get to know people in the media and educate them on the issue of pro-choice. Third, praise the media when warranted and offer constructive criticism when necessary. Fourth, give the media information that can be used for human interest features, such as a real 15-year-old girl raising a child. Houston Breakthrough February, 1979