Choosing to celebrate choice

The anniversary of Roe v. Wade brings the feminist self-help movement back into focus

Shauna Heckert is the executive director of Women’s Health Specialists, founded as the Chico Feminist Women’s Health Center in 1975 and now with eight sites.

Monday, Jan. 22, is the 34th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion for women across the United States. Thanks to the dedicated work of feminists, activists, street demonstrations and the feminist self-help movement, the U.S. Supreme Court was compelled to rule to legalize abortion. Abortion opponents do not have the ability to erase 34 years of knowledge and experience. With abortion technology within women’s grasp, we are not willing to go back to the old days.

Shortly after the Roe decision, Dido Hasper and eight other women started the Chico Feminist Women’s Heath Center (FWHC)—a woman-controlled clinic offering abortion, birth control and self help—in 1975. They sought to bring health care to women’s lives without the shame attached to their sexuality or sexual health care. Under Dido’s leadership, the FWHC has expanded to eight sites.

Dido worked consistently to bring health-care decision-making to those receiving the care, and to empower women with all the options available to them to reclaim our bodies as our own. She also developed a mentoring program to foster leadership for working-class women.

She has been a national presence in the fight to keep abortion legal and accessible. She has presented testimony to the California Legislature and worked locally, nationally and internationally to elevate women’s status.

Dido co-authored the collective writings of the Federation of Feminist Health Centers books A New View of a Women’s Body and How to Stay OUT of the Gynecologist’s Office and contributed to Women-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.

Today there are only 14 feminist, independent, women-controlled abortion providers still open in the United States. Aradia Women’s Health Center in Seattle just closed last month after 35 years. There is no substitute because feminist clinics live by the philosophy that women deserve options.

Feminist clinics support all options for all women. This includes support for a women’s choice to give birth, or to choose any birth-control method including fertility awareness. Feminist clinics organize support to overcome barriers women face in accessing abortion services.

Join us Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Women’s Health Specialists in Chico from 4 to 7 p.m. for an open house celebration of Roe v. Wade. We will be dedicating the Dido Hasper Activist Room as an organizing/strategizing meeting space. Check for more information.

Help remove the stigma on abortion by talking to your friends, exposing fake (anti-abortion) “clinics,” pressuring our elected officials, supporting feminist clinics and signing up for practical support.