Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jane co-founder Jody Howard dies at 69

The Chicago Tribune reports feminist, reproductive rights activist, and co-founder of the Jane Collective Jody Howard has passed away at age 69.

In the days before Roe, obtaining a safe abortion was difficult. Women often ended up with infections, perforated uteri, or worse from back-alley providers. Many women took it upon themselves to self-abort and ended up dead or unable to carry a healthy pregnancy again. Others report being mugged and raped by people who told them they would provide an abortion.

Jody Howard sought to provide women in the Chicago area referrals for abortion providers that they knew to be safe and honest. The Jane Collective eventually took it upon themselves to provide the abortions in a rented apartment. They estimate they performed 11,000 procedures themselves and never faced a serious complication.

Today, though abortion is legal throughout the United States, women continue to face financial, legislative, and personal barriers to obtaining a safe and legal abortion. 87% of counties in the United States have no provider, meaning women in especially rural areas must travel long distances to get to a clinic, and often anti-choice legislation (such as ultrasound requirements and waiting periods) forces them to make repeat visits. Around the world, the Guttmacher institute estimates approximately 219 women die from unsafe abortion every day.

Howard's life's work helped bridge these barriers for thousands of women. After her work with Jane, she worked on the board of the ACLU. She was a mother, an anti-racist advocate, anti-war activist, and feminist. Though the battle for unrestricted access to all reproductive options continues, Jody Howard's work undoubtedly brought increased rights to countless women to live their lives as they choose.

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