On June 24th of this year, the US Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision.
And Dobbs V Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Court ruled that the right to an abortion does not exist in the Constitution.
Effectively overturning 1973 s row v Wade decision.
This means that United States federal law does not protect the right to an abortion.
Thirteen states have had, what are called trigger laws on their books.
Designed to go into effect, should row be overruled in those States?
Widespread abortion, Bans are now in place or will be in the next 30 days.
And in many cases, no, exception is given for a person who may face substantial or irreversible impairment as a result of their pregnancy.
Only a few of these bands offer exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest stories have poured out from some of these States of women, who thought they’d be able to terminate their pregnancies?
And now they’re not?
So sure they can, some of these bands, feel reminiscent of a pre row, v Wade, reality.
Some were literally on the books before Roe, others feel even more extreme.
I’m not going to mince words here.
This is a dire situation for some women pregnant people.
This is a death sentence.
We know this a recent study out of the University of Colorado Boulder, estimated that pregnancy related mortality?
Would jump 21 percent Nationwide if abortion were banned?
And that’s not even accounting for an increase in illegal.
Unsafe abortion before The Supreme Court decision was handed down.
Even before a draft of it leaked in early, may we here at not past.
It did a story on abortion, knowing Rose fate would be on the courts.
Docket this summer.
I I personally was afraid of what was going to happen someone with a capacity to get pregnant.
This felt especially personal and I wanted to better understand where we might be headed by looking back.
And in searching for stories, we found an old book, a transcript of a medical conference that happened in the 50s.
A secret conference secret because this group of doctors were all Gathering to discuss abortion in a time when it was illegal to provide one, just like it is now in some states.
So, today we’re revisiting that episode.
And once again, cracking open that old book abortion in the United States, a plain and simple title for topic that is anything.
But from gimlet media, this is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind every episode.
We take Moment from that very same week in history and tell you the story of how it shaped our world.
I’m Simone plannin on April 15, 1955 67 years ago.
One, Fearless woman assembled a group of doctors Public Health experts and psychologists to talk about abortion at a time when it was really, really dangerous to do.
So on the show today will tell you the story of dr.
Mary Calderon how she pulled off the Conference in secret what leaders in public health had to say about abortion at the time and how this humble Dusty book.
Kicked off a long fight to change.
Abortion laws a fight that is reaching New Heights.
At this very moment will turn the page after the break.
Recent Supreme Court cases have really amped up, anxieties around abortion rights in the country.
For example, in June, the Supreme Court is going to hand down a big decision in Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Mississippi law in question, seeks to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, depending on how this case shakes.
At the federal level, it could gut the current protections provided under the US Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v– Wade, not to mention, they’re all these recent state level restrictions to majority of abortions in Texas are now banned after the Supreme Court did not rule on an emergency appeal to keep a new law from taking effect.
Last September, Texas passed a law, that makes abortion illegal as soon as a heartbeat, can be detected.
Now, there’s some debate about what heartbeat means in these cases.
But basically, as early as six weeks of pregnancy, it also allows people to sue abortion providers and people who help others get them in March of this year, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that Outlaws all abortions.
After 15 weeks Exposing doctors who perform them to potential, felony charges in Oklahoma, the state house, just voted for a bill that would make performing an abortion, a felony, unless it is necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life and the governor just signed it into law and just recently, Democratic state, senator Karen Berg, a doctor and Kentucky slammed, a medical abortion bill in a really emotional speech.
This bill bill is a medical sham.
It does not follow medicine.
It does not even purport to listen to medicine and for each and every one of my colleagues to be so willing to cast and I’d vote.
She said this during a state senate committee meeting for a bill that would lower the ban on abortion from after 20 weeks of pregnancy down to 15, you are killing women because Abortion will continue.
Women will continue to have efficacy over their own body, whether or not you make it legal.
No, and I got bill has, since passed in the state legislature.
I got us a hearing this.
It feels like we’ve gone back in time.
So when one of our producers cracked open this old book from the 1950s abortion, and the United.
We were like yikes.
This feels a little too close to where we’re at right now.
It paints a picture of the country before Roe v– Wade, expanded legal, abortion access in the 1970s and as far as we know this book has never been reported on and when you make a weekly History Podcast these are the sorts of things you get jazzed about.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
Our story starts in D3 with a woman named dr.
She was the most imposing figure I had ever met dr.
Ellen more is a professor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts, Chan, medical school.
And just wrote a book about Cal Verone’s life, dr.
Moore and dr.
Calderon many times before Calderon died.
She had fine gray hair and to keep it under control.
She wore it in a turban and Her blue eyes were very clear, and she sat down and for the next hour having never met me.
She told me the story of her life Calderon studied chemistry at Vassar College.
Then set her sights on an acting career.
It didn’t pan out her first marriage failed.
She lost a child to pneumonia and she fell into a depression her way out medical school.
At 30 years old, after getting her MD, she got a degree in public health and then in 1953 and her late 40s Calderon, got a huge job opportunity.
With Planned Parenthood.
Back in the 50s Planned Parenthood was different than it is today.
They offered programs on Family Planning, including marriage, education, and counseling and infertility Services.
They were offering Calderon the Addition of medical director sounds fancy.
Thing is it was basically a gig no one wanted.
Here’s Calderon as played by an actor from an interview.
She gave later in life.
I found when I got to Planned Parenthood that the reason I’d been offered the job is that no, respecting male physician would take it.
Family Planning that was women’s work and her friends told her that.
If she took that job, it would be professional.
That’s a quote.
Calderon decided to risk professional suicide.
She took this Planned Parenthood gig and she admitted later in life.
The job was all new to her.
Then one day as she tells it she sitting at her cubicle.
Yes, a cubicle for the medical director and she gets a big assignment, William vote.
Who is planned parenthood’s executive director called me in one day and said, I want you to think of something that we could do that will really focus attention on Planned Parenthood, that will be something different and that will show the need for birth control services.
Calderon is pumped.
Even if this does kind of sound like a project, you would assign to the social media intern.
Hey, can you make us more hip?
Help us go viral, can we do like some memes but whatever it’s the birth control topic that gets her fired up.
It’s right in her wheelhouse and it turns out it was also very relevant to what was happening in public health at the time and just to note, we’re talking about reproductive Earth in this episode but using the word women instead of birthing people as it relates to cisgendered women in the 1950s since that’s pretty much who the pregnancy conversation was centered around back then.
So in the 1950s the state of women’s reproductive Health was pretty dire.
Diaphragms were available for women but other forms of birth control weren’t easy to access.
The pill wouldn’t be readily available until the 60s an abortion.
They were a huge Public Health, concern some estimates indicate.
There were nearly a million illegal abortions happening every year in the 50s and the laws around them were confusing.
There were two types of abortions under the law.
Legal also called therapeutic abortions.
These were abortions performed in order to preserve the health or life of a woman, really medicine got to Define that.
That’s how it’s written in the law.
Leslie Regan is a professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and the author of the book when abortion was a crime and if other doctors approve of that abortion or agree with the indications, Then it’s a medically accepted reason for doing abortions.
So, unless a doctor approved of the abortion for the health and safety of a woman, the abortion was illegal and abortion laws were determined by state legislatures.
So they varied state to state this made the line between legal and illegal abortion, incredibly murky, which gave the government with help from the police wiggle room to prosecute, givers and receivers.
Of abortions of all types.
They deliberately stake out the places.
Watch what’s happening.
And then collect all the women as they’re leaving or burst into the office.
And arrest everyone who’s sitting there waiting for an abortion or had an abortion receptionists, the nurse that provider, and hopefully a woman on the operating table.
They really begin to go after these safe providers and try to shut down the Clinic’s.
The consequences of these shutdowns were devastating that forced some women to seek out.
It was fairly common for women who couldn’t access safe, abortion to take drugs, but they could be dangerous at times poisonous.
There are even accounts of women taking care of abortions, with wire hangers just really horrifying stuff.
This approach of literally policing, Women’s medical decisions.
It went hand in hand with the rise of social, conservatism in the 1950s and it looked a lot like how the government was restricting, political speech, through McCarthyism, if they get caught, their reputations will be destroyed, that they will no longer be a member.
If they’re Medical Society in good standing, they could be stigmatized.
They could be afraid that the police or prosecutors might come after them, and they could lose their medical licenses by the late 1940s.
Most doctors were really afraid to do any kind of abortion at all, but some doctors were still doing them.
Anyways, this one doctor a guy named dr.
George timidness was put on trial in 1951 for conducting thousands of abortions.
Over the course of a few decades his Colleagues were afraid to stand up for him?
Even doctors who had referred their patients to him for abortion Services?
Timidness was fined.
Five thousand dollars more than 50,000 dollars in today’s money, sentenced to six months in jail and eventually forced into retirement making crystal clear what was at stake for doctors, providing abortions.
It could ruin their careers.
So by the time Mary Calderon took that job at Planned Parenthood.
Parenthood things were very precarious for women, seeking abortions, and the doctors providing them.
Women were literally putting their lives on the line, doctors were risking their reputations, facing serious, legal ramifications.
If they were caught Calderon solution to these high abortion rates, contraception birth control and she wanted Planned Parenthood to help make it available.
So after the executive director approached her with that, make us cool assignment.
She came up with a plan.
So, I went back to my little cubicle and thought for several days and then came back to him and said, I think what we might do is have a conference on abortion, illegal abortion.
I’m imagining Mary Calderon thought bubble above her?
Head coming up with this idea.
Okay, let’s get lots of people from all over the country maybe even Europe will hold it somewhere.
Discreet hidden from view somewhere.
Real classy, a stately Brick House.
Set on a lush green lawn, we’d have these hours long sessions over a long conference table.
Maybe a claimed gynecologists and smart people from Big universities would come and they’d all talk about one of the most pressing public health issues, the abortion Hey Mary could dream right even if this would be tough to pull off.
But remember this woman with the piercing blue eyes, this imposing figure, she’s pretty convincing after that ballsy pitch, the executive director gave her a green light.
So he gave me the go-ahead and found some money, a little bit of money, 15,000, I believe we got names and fifteen thousand dollars roughly 50,000.
If we’re talking today’s dollars and permission to set up a conference that would change the state of women’s health.
Yeah she could work with that.
Calderon had to start a guest list.
Who exactly would be at this conference.
If she could get just one prominent doctor behind her then she might be able to pull in a few more.
Luckily Calderone had someone really famous in her Corner a well-respected gynecologist obstetrician and birth control, Advocate named dr.
Alan guttmacher Leslie Regan says this was a big win for Calderon and her Friends he had some allies dr.
Guttmacher who probably was smoothing the path to get people to come.
So she got the sky guttmacher on her side but still to talk about abortion in the open.
That was a big ask to sweeten, the deal secrecy, no journalists no press, no Outsiders of any kind.
That’s why we didn’t let a word about it leaked to the Press ahead of time.
That strategy seemed to calm some collective nerves eventually.
She got 43.
People signed up to attend.
They worked at institutions like Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Cornell.
Some of them studied population control and fertility.
They came from Atlanta, Georgia, Jersey City, New, Jersey Jackson, Mississippi, and even further flung places like Oslo, Norway and Stockholm Sweden, Calderon was so close to her conference dreams.
There was just one last thing to take care of, she needed, a stellar keynote speaker.
Someone who had experience, providing abortions.
Someone who understood the stakes for women and abortion providers.
Someone who lived the consequences, someone who other providers, both respected and feared.
Because of what he had done, who better to speak to all of these issues.
Use than the publicly disgraced illegal abortion provider, dr.
So grab your lanyards and your Swag Bags because after the break, we’re headed to marry kaldur owns secret.
Abortion conference, Welcome back and please take your seats.
The conference is about to start before the break, we met dr.
Mary Calderon as she was putting on a conference about abortion.
Now, remember that Dusty book from eBay abortion and the United States?
Well, the time has come to crack it open.
It’s basically a transcript of everything that was said at this conference.
So, you know, have On dialogue, light on narration but imagine with me.
If you will it’s spring and Upstate New York, 1955 there at a spot called Arden house inside.
There’s a conference table where the invited guests would sit for hours because this isn’t the conference you’re picturing in your head.
There were no breakout rooms or overlapping sessions.
It’s just 43, people hashing it out at a table for a few.
If you were a fly on the wall at this conference, here’s what you’d here.
And we’re going to use some actors to voice.
A few of these folks in the room, they discuss the methods used to perform abortion.
They talk about abortion and other countries.
They argue about the definitions of words, words, that they would be afraid to even utter and public dr.
Alfred Kinsey, was there the super famous sex researcher?
Like the Kinsey from the Kinsey scale.
He was arguing semantics with another doctor.
I substituted the word contraception for your word, abortion Whenever you set it.
And I found again that this substitution did not for me at least spoil your logic, that’s what is your game?
Not mine, it gets a little debate, team e the faults in your argument, good sir type stuff but you know there are a lot of men there, a few women, it is the 1950s, so So they’re very much coming at this topic from, let’s call it conservative standpoint to put it mildly like when dr.
Kligman is talking with other Physicians.
I would like to ask as to both Norway and Denmark.
What is your society’s attitude to the unmarried mother?
So few unmarried, who request abortions, unmarried women, Excuse me, while I clutch my pearls.
Of course, dr.
Mary Calderon is there too, but ironically, she’s not really a part of any of these Dynamic discussions of abortion as she revealed later in an interview.
She’s busy running around taking care of people’s drinks, missing out on the conversation of which there are pages and pages in this book at some point.
One of these doctors even mentions the horror stories from abortion, Ian’s being done in private, illegal abortions, but particularly under frightening and Shady circumstances such as I have heard about from patients, who have had to go to abortion rings and are blindfolded and whisk from one town to another cannot help, but be threatening in some ways.
It probably felt like a group therapy session to get a lot of what they were witnessing off their chests.
And then it was time for dr.
Tim - to say his piece that doctor who was well known for performing, thousands of abortions.
In Baltimore, if you remember he had lost his medical license was fined.
Five thousand dollars and was sentenced to six months in jail.
Surely everyone there knew who he was, he was pretty famous for being an example of what might happen to other doctors around the country.
If they were to be open about offering abortion services, Has also, if you remember timidness is medical colleagues wouldn’t stand up for him at his trial?
So, you know, I imagine things were more than a little tense.
Timidness takes the floor with some prepared.
Remarks, the material I’ve gotten together comes from my own experience and I have tried to summarize it for you very briefly.
One of the questions I’ve studied is how many persons in the medical profession or associated?
Medical profession resort to abortions themselves.
He goes on to present data of the thousands of patients.
He treated for abortions grouped by age and marital status that prominent doctor, mister guttmacher asks him to explain the methods.
He used to perform abortion.
Someone even asked some sort of elephant in the room question.
Do you ask the women?
You treat why they are coming in for an abortion?
Yes I did if I had to do it over again.
I would have a social worker as well as a nurse in my office.
Realizing now that demand for knowledge about abortion.
But perhaps, the highlight of his remarks was his sobering perspective, on the work, he had done for so many years to hear him speak about it.
It sounds like something.
You might hear and conversations about abortion today.
He’s concerned that women are in crisis and access to abortion is getting really precarious from my experience.
It Seems to me that the difficulty lies mostly with the fact that the average unknowingly pregnant woman doesn’t know what to do or where to turn her only resource at present is to go to a local physician and under present standards.
He’s afraid to even look at her.
He has no place to send her.
He is no recommendations to make to her.
So consequentially she goes to an abortionist.
Dr. Tim - makes explicit something these Physicians were likely aware of without proper.
Information and access to abortion Services.
Women were in real danger and while timidness acknowledges that he’s perhaps the most visible abortionist in the room, maybe even in the country.
He reminds them that many other doctors are performing abortions in secret abortion laws.
Do not meet today’s needs and are generally filed lated everywhere timidness did not mince words.
People are breaking and violating the laws.
Not helping anyone, not women, not doctors.
You don’t respect the law, if you have, you know, 40% of the population breaking it.
And if you force Elite doctors to feel like criminals as provocative as timidness appeared to be, he wasn’t chastised or booed out of the room.
They actually treated him with respect at this conference by the end of the conference, it’s clear that Mary Calderon as Vision.
Had taken shape, the 43 medical experts in the room were largely in agreement.
They had to take action.
They went into this conference apprehensively wanting privacy, but after a few days, talking and debating abortion with their medical colleagues, something kind of magical happened.
Nearly everyone agreed that they wanted to go public with their discussions.
They came up with an idea for a book one that would contain the transcripts of everything they had just discussed Mary Calderone would serve as editor.
They wrote up a collective statement.
Sort of a call to action nearly all the conference attendees agreed to sign their names to it, even next to dr.
Tim - has named.
That’s a pretty big 180 from where these doctors stood before the conference when they would only meet to discuss the topic of abortion.
If it was done in secret, their statement read in part the conference, participants recognize that present laws and mores have not served to control the practice of illegal abortion.
Rather this has continued to an extent ignored or perhaps condoned by a large proportion of the general public.
And even of the medical and legal professions to keep on the books unchallenged laws that do not receive public sanction, and observance is of questionable, service to our society.
They called for current laws to be re-written and for more legal latitude to recommend abortions for a wider range of reasons, most, especially to protect doctors from being criminalized.
The book abortion, and the United States was eventually published in 1958 I mean, they never their intention then or 10 or 15 years later, it was not to legalize abortion, they wanted just to reform the laws.
So that would be a bit easier for women to obtain them, and for doctors to perform them abortion and the United States went on to be an important legal textbook, for Scholars in 1959, the American law Institute proposed, a model law, it would allow licensed doctors Perform abortions for physical and mental health reasons, things like fetal defects or pregnancy, resulting from rape or incest.
That led states like California, Colorado and North Carolina to pass their own versions of that same model law by 1967.
But the watershed moment for abortion wouldn’t happen until January 22nd 1973 when unreasonably restrictive State, abortion laws were declared, Unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in row v Wade.
The Supreme Court today, ruled that abortion is completely A Private Matter to be decided by mother and doctor in the first three months of pregnancy Court.
Ruled in cases, from Texas and Georgia, but all 50 states are effective, whatever, they’re lost and won.
And we see news report, dr.
Alan guttmacher Calderon, is a lie at the conference.
He gives a pretty emotional response to the Supreme Court.
Well, it means that January 22nd 1973 will stand out as one of the great days for freedom and free choice.
This allows a woman free choices whether or not to remain pregnant, this is extraordinary.
And Mary Calderon.
She went on to other public health winds, continuing her advocacy for contraception and most notably promoting sex education in schools work that began in that tiny cubicle at Planned Parenthood or she dreamed up that seed of an idea and took a major step towards changing Reproductive Rights in America.
Change that is under siege right now as the US Supreme Court is expected to announce a decision that Potentially overturn Roe v– Wade, in June.
There are thousands of laws on the books that make the fetus into a person and those laws, they’re all over the place and they will be quite dangerous in terms of, you know, women who have miscarriages.
So, the possibility of massive criminalization and incarceration is quite large, you are killing women.
Because abortion will continue.
Women will continue to have efficacy over their own body whether or not you make it legal.
You don’t have to imagine too hard.
What criminalizing abortion and America would look like because we kind of know already.
That’s a reality captured in the pages of Mary Calderon has booked a reality.
Some may still remember a reality that people in some states are already living.
We’ve seen how restricting access to abortion as bad for doctors bad for people seeking Reproductive Services and yet.
We’re seeing legislation doing just that gaining traction and several parts of the country, whoever said history repeats itself.
I really, really hope that in this case they’re wrong.
That’s where we left off in our original episode back in April of this year, with hope.
Hope that now feels to me about, as effective as trying to stop a tidal wave from crashing by shooting at a stern.
Look, I am crushed, whatever.
I could cling on to for comfort is gone and I’m afraid afraid for anyone who needs an abortion who wants one and can’t get one.
For any woman or pregnant person whose body is no longer under their control, who no longer has the power to make decisions about their own life.
I mean, their own body and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, since the decision was handed down reactions have poured in from around the country.
This is a public health emergency.
It is a matter of life and death.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with abortion, but that isn’t me to take the rights away from Body else.
Tragic because we fought so hard.
To get this watch.
In 1973, when it’s finally won the victory.
Now, 50 years later day of jerk this away from us devastated and terrified.
So many women is so many girls are going to die because of this.
We know this decision is a deadly one.
Dr. Mary Calderon and her medical peers new this even in the 1950s.
But stripping a person of the right to make decisions about their own body has implications far beyond reproduction, it sets a precedent for whose personhood matters and once that’s Up For Debate, well you don’t need to be a history buff to know how sideways that can go now.
This isn’t the end abortion, right?
Can be restored and progress is possible, but it is not inevitable.
We’re confronting that very reality right now.
So that hope maybe that’s not so useless combined with a healthy dose of fear.
I might be the very fuel needed to make progress happen.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet and zsp media.
This episode was produced by Amy Padula.
The rest of our team is producer, Sarah Craig.
Our associate producers are remotely Phillip and Julie, Carly.
Laura Newcomb is our production assistant the supervising producer is Erica Morrison, editing by k.t. feather, and Andrea be Scott.
Mhairi Calderon was played by list Styles, dr.
Tim - and other attendees were played by Ben Britain, and Amy p.
Laughs fact-checking by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Hans Dale.
She original music by Sachs kicks, Ave Willie Green.
J bless and Bobby.
Lord, our theme song is Toko Liana by Coco, Co with music supervision by Liz, Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.
The executive producer at CSP media is Zach Stewart Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Abbie ruzicka.
You can read.
Dr. Alan Moore’s book.
That’s Called the transformation of American sex, education, Mary Calderon and the fight for sexual health and Leslie.
Regan’s book titled when abortion was a crime special, thanks to the Librarians at the Schlessinger library at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute and to Lydia Pole.
Green Dan Behar Jen hon, Emily wiedemann list Styles and Joshua Bianchi, follow not past it.
Now, to listen, for free exclusively on Spotify, click the little bell next to the follow button to Notifications for new episodes.
And while you’re there, right us 5 Stars.
You know if you’re feeling it you can follow me on Twitter at some plannin, thanks for hanging.
I’ll see you next week.
First of all, I was supposed to be the hostess and running all the details and making sure that the coffee and the pencils and the paper with are, you know, all of those Thousand.
And One things that nowadays secretary would handle