“The problem created by our abortion laws is not a female problem, it is a human problem.”
Jimmye Elizabeth Kimmey, a former professor of government at Barnard, wrote these words in 1969 in an opinion piece, “The Abortion Argument: What It’s Not About,” that appeared in Barnard Magazine’s Fall issue — four years before the passage of Roe v. Wade. It was the first major story in the Magazine’s pages to not only cover abortion but also advocate for its legal reform.
Kimmey was then the executive director of the Association for the Study of Abortion (ASA), an organization whose founders included obstetrician-gynecologists Robert E. Hall and Alan F. Guttmacher, who at the time was the president of Planned Parenthood. During her decade-long tenure at ASA, she penned numerous publications pressing for legal abortions, organized the largest international conference on the issue, and, most notably, is credited for coining the slogan “right to choose.”
Fifty-three years after the publication of Kimmey’s article in the Magazine, the battle for women’s reproductive rights continues on — and so does our coverage.
Upon learning of the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade in June, we decided it was incumbent on us to dedicate space in the Fall issue to this subject. One of the first things we did was to dig into the Magazine’s archives. Searches for “abortion,” “reproductive rights,” and “Roe v. Wade” yielded more than 200 results. Sometimes it was only a mention in a story or Class Notes; other times, an entire article focused on the topic. And that’s how we came across Kimmey’s writing.
Turning to Barnard’s experts is something we do again in this edition. We have a piece, which first appeared on Barnard.edu, that asks faculty and staff from different disciplines to weigh in on the consequences of the SCOTUS decision to terminate federal protection of abortion rights. Whether from the perspective of economics or that of gender studies, we read about how this ruling will have far-reaching, and likely deleterious, effects on women and on society at large.
In our feature “The Fight Goes On,” we tell the story of Abby Pariser ’67, who spent much of her career advocating for women’s reproductive rights, from her high-risk work in Jane — an underground group helping Chicago women obtain safe abortions — to opening a Planned Parenthood clinic and initiating sex education in her local school district.
Members of the Barnard community have been at the forefront of the abortion rights movement for over half a century. They’ve courageously, and often at their own peril, stood up for women’s rights, and they’ve been quick to react to setbacks. If there’s one thing I am sure of, it is that our faculty, students, and alumnae will keep doing the work — whether that is through activism, scholarship, or professional endeavors — to ensure that women have the power to make their own decisions about their health and well-being.