I had the incredible privilege of speaking with Linn Duvall Harwell, one of the founders of the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project at the ACLU about the recent legislative attacks on reproductive rights. During our conversation, Linn shared with me that her husband is in hospice care and doesn’t have long to live. The fact that she wanted to take time to speak with me during such a difficult moment points to her steadfast, lifelong commitment to the issue of reproductive freedom for women.
Linn Harwell’s mother, Clara Bell Duvall was the victim of an unsafe abortion in the 1920s, well before abortion was legalized under Roe V. Wade in 1973. This tragic event stayed with her and became the catalyst for her career and commitment to women’s reproductive rights activism.
During our conversation, she shared her disgust with proposed Senate Bill 732 and said, “I am appalledto witness the continuity of that effort from many years ago to reinstate those kinds of restrictions. For me, it all equals restrictions for women.”
She believes that supporters of the anti-abortion movement lack knowledge of the conditions that existed before Roe V. Wade and “do not know the history that preceded Roe v. Wade and why Roe v. Wade came to be.”
She urges Pennsylvanians to open their eyes to the gravity of the issue and reminds us of a time when things were not so easy, a time that could become a reality once again if we do not take action. “Please don’t take these things for granted. Call your representative and tell them where you are and what you need to prevent tragedies in the public health of our nation,” she said.
She stressed the importance of men’s participation in the effort and believes that educating men about reproductive health and preventative medicine would provide them with a basis to take action. “The relationship of the man who is relating to the woman in need is essential and we are neglecting educating men on this issue,” she said. She believes that her husband’s unwavering support has been a strong presence in her career as an activist and in her role as a mother.
Linn believes "We've Had Enough" could transform the movement:“All my life I have regretted the nature of my mother’s death and so I have worked for women I have never known and I would love to see Pennsylvania pick up and care about people that they don’t know.”
This blog post has been cross posted at Speaking Freely, the blog of the ACLU of PA: http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2011/09/when-abortion-was-illegal.html