Sunday, November 3, 2013

Roe v. Wade crusader stays overtime to hear personal stories

“Here is a woman doing something ahead of her time, standing up for what she believes in.” That’s what Mythili Ramakrishna thought when she first studied the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade in a human rights class two years ago.

Today, Ramakrishna met that woman, Sarah Weddington, who was only 26 when she successfully argued the case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court more than 40 years ago.

Ramakrishna said it was very important for her to meet Weddington because as a young woman from India, Ramakrishna recognizes that “women leaders in India — a very paternalistic society — have a very, very tough time.”

Sarah Weddington signs her book for Mythili Ramakrishna, who was inspired by Weddington’s successful fight to make abortion legal in the U.S. 40 years ago. 

After giving a rousing keynote speech at Sunday’s opening session, Weddington rushed to the Public Health Expo, where she stayed for several hours signing copies of her book, “A Question of Choice.” She vowed to stay until every person waiting in the long line had a conversation with her.

“Some of them have talked to me about their desire to have a choice available to their daughters, so I signed [my book] to them and their daughters,” Weddington said. “I’d much rather sign the book in a meaningful way.”

This meant she continued to hear dozens of personal stories about the landmark abortion case.

Kristina Pettingill, with the Maine Public Health Association, was having a book signed for her mother, a nurse practitioner who worked at Planned Parenthood when her daughter was young.

“She was an advocate for reproductive rights all while I was growing up,” Pettingill said.

At age 43, Pettingill has known what it’s like to have reproductive choice most of her life because “the way had already been paved before me.”

But, she said, “it upsets me now to see my mother’s work and Sarah’s work being eroded….I’m worried we’re going to have to do this work all over again.”

Dianne Samarin also worries about the erosion of abortion access. The director of public health for Apache County in Arizona, Samarin was doing her prerequisites for nursing when Roe v. Wade was before the Supreme Court, adding that the case was "all the discussion” while she was in college.

“I’m a person of choice," she said. "I like to have control over my body.”

— M.P.

Photo by Melanie Padgett Powers

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