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Roe v. Wade History Lessons Presented in Iowa

July 15, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa – Many women of child-bearing age in Iowa weren't even born when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Today, a group of young Iowans gets a history lesson from someone who was there.

Planned Parenthood Young Leaders is a group of 20- and 30-year-olds who consider themselves the next generation of family planning advocates. They are hosting a session that deals with an era in which abortions, and even some contraceptives, were illegal. Among the panelists is Barbara Shlaes, a former teacher who was active in the women's rights movement in the 1970s. She vividly remembers what she calls "the dark days for women," and points out that, for today's younger generation, reproductive rights have always existed.

"It's my feeling that the young women of today don't know what it was like in the days before 'Roe.' It was ugly."

Before the landmark 1973 decision, women sometimes terminated their own pregnancies with anything they could find, from wire to knitting needles, says Shlaes.

"And some women committed suicide. Oh, it was just awful, just terrible; and I see us trying to go back to that now."

Shlaes refers to movements to erase Roe vs. Wade as "an affront to women." During the most recent session of the Iowa Legislature, Republican lawmakers attempted to change the language of state law. In the end, however, the state rules were left mostly intact.

Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA