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Make Roe Real: The Story of Gerri Santoro and Others

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January 23, 2014

In 1964, an image of a young woman named Geraldine Santoro made history. Gerri, as she liked to be called, lived in Connecticut with her two children, recently separated from an abusive husband. After her separation she’d met a man named Clyde Dixon and began their extramarital affair in secret and eventually became pregnant by him. Gerri’s husband, Sam, had plans of visiting their daughters, and fearing for her life Gerri made a decision to terminate the pregnancy by any means possible.

On June 8th in 1964, Gerri and Clyde checked into a hotel in Connecticut with the intention of doing the procedure themselves. When Clyde realized that Gerri was beginning to hemorrhage he fled, leaving Gerri to die alone, bloody, and in agony. Gerri’s body was found the next morning by a maid. The image of Gerri’s body on the floor of her hotel room immediately became famous. She was 28.

Life in America before Roe is littered with stories like Gerri’s. Women who lived in fear of abuse, poverty, and social backlash flocked to unlicensed and unsanitary providers of illegal abortions. Their blood and pain pepper the movement we continue today with solemn reminders of why we do what we do.

The reality is this: Women will not stop seeking abortion services simply because it’s been made illegal. I want to make Roe real for these women. For women like Gerri Santoro, and Clara Bell Duval, and Rosie Jimenez, who were denied the resources to appropriate and safe health care facilities by men playing politics with their bodies.

These women are why the attacks on reproductive health care make me vibrate with rage and disgust. Anti-choice supporters take the stories of beautiful young women who died too early and warp them for their agendas by using their images as scare tactics and twisted support for their side. It sickens me to see anti-choicers speak the name of these and other women whose deaths are directly a result of the policy they work so hard to enforce. Their policies and ideals put women in their graves and they don’t care.

The pro-choice movement must remember these women and girls. We must remember that their stories are not reserved for a world before Roe. Their stories are replicated every single day all across the nation by women who have been pushed into a corner by unfair and cruel legislation. I weep for these women, our sisters, who died because they were denied the simple ability to see a doctor. Forty one years later, we must acknowledge the untold stories of women in these positions. I plan to fight. I will fight for Gerri and Clara and Rosie until the end of my days because they died thinking no one would fight for them or what they were doing. I will bleed and cry and endure ridicule and slander if it means that not one more woman will ever have to feel the pain of an unsafe, self-induced, and illegal abortion.

We must make Roe real because for so many it wasn’t and won’t be.

If you’d like to make a personal or political pledge to help Make Roe Real, go here: http://bit.ly/MakeRoeReal

 

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