Playboy Magazine’s Unlikely History of Abortion-Rights Activism – Sierra Tishgart@sierratishgartSeptember 28, 2017 5:26 pm

Playboy, May, 1963

Much will be said about Hugh Hefner’s legacy, the polarizing man who created Playboy in 1953 and who died Tuesday at age 91, but a largely unknown story is Hefner’s critical role in the fight for women’s reproductive rights. Playboywas the first major national consumer magazine to advocate for legal abortion on demand. Its coverage began in April of 1963 (before even Planned Parenthood joined the abortion-rights movement) when Sex and the Single Girl author Helen Gurley Brown responded to a question about abortion in an interview. “It’s outrageous that girls can’t be aborted here,” she said. “Abortion is just surrounded by all this hush-hush and horror, like insanity used to be.”

You’d assume that Playboy supported abortion rights only to mitigate the consequences of sexual freedom for men. But Playboy first wrote about abortion from a public-health standpoint, publishing letters from women that detailed the emotional and physical pain caused by botched and illegal abortions. Readers debated the issue of abortion in the Playboy Forum, the magazine’s current-events section. Over 350 letters about abortion appeared from 1963 to 1973; women wrote about a third. Many chose to remain nameless as they shared their gruesome stories.

Here’s one from the September 1966 issue, titled “Abortion Butchery”:

“The horror stories about illegal abortion in The Playboy Forum are certainly typical of the butchery that goes on…. I was forced to seek an abortion from the first butcher I could find… Consequently, I wound up in the hospital as a result of the bloody job that was done on me.” — Name withheld by request

And another from the January 1967 issue, “An Easy Abortion”:

“The operation was simple. It took exactly 12 minutes. I had no aftereffects other than normal cramps. Again, I say that I was lucky. But how about the girls less lucky than me, who must go to the butchers and risk their lives? When will this cruel and senseless law be changed?” — Name withheld by request, Coral Gables, Florida

From 1965 to Roe v. Wade in 1973, Playboy covered abortion in almost every single issue, and advocated for the legalization of abortion on demand with no restrictions. This same year, the American Law Institute recommended that a woman be entitled to an abortion if her physical or mental health were endangered, if she had been the victim of rape or incest, or if there were fetal deformities. The restrictive idea of therapeutic abortion gained force. In its December 1965 issue, Playboy published its first official editorial response on the topic, in response to an anti-abortion letter from a reader:

“A pregnant woman is faced with choices—and we think she should be allowed to decide which alternative is preferable under the circumstances—whatever the circumstances happen to be … If the pregnant woman decides to have an abortion in America at the present time — and over 1,500,000 did this year — she must, in most cases, resort to an illicit operation, performed under circumstances conducive to both physical and emotional pain.”

Abortion was a tricky subject for any magazine to take on in the 1960s. Yet the decision was an easy one for the Playboy editorial staff. There was no heated office discussion. No dramatic proclamation by Hefner. The decision to cover such a disruptive topic happened very quietly. “At that time, abortion was controversial, but we all felt the same way and forged ahead,” former Playboy editor Nat Lehrman told me when I interviewed him while studying Playboy at Northwestern in 2011. (He died in 2014.) Lehrman joined the staff of Playboy in 1963 and edited the Forum. “I never really talked about it with Hef, to tell you the truth, but I’m quite sure he was receptive. He would have raised hell if he wasn’t.”

Article continues:

This Bill Would Require Abortions to Be Approved by Men – ASHLEY DEJEANFEB. 14, 2017 11:20 AM

That’s because women are just “hosts” for fetuses.

Update, 12:30 p.m.: The Oklahoma House Public Health Committee voted to send HB 1441 and HB 1549 to the full House of Representatives for consideration. 

In Oklahoma, abortion rights advocates breathed a big sigh of relief when a particularly draconian measure, requiring a woman seeking an abortion to get written approval from the man who impregnated her, was tabled last week. That sigh may have come too soon: The state’s House Public Health Committee is set to reconsider HB 1441 today. The proposal would require a woman to get written permission for an abortion from the biological father, identify him to her doctor in writing, and allow him to demand a paternity test.

This measure is the latest in a series of efforts to limit access to abortion in Oklahoma. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, has signed 20 anti-abortion bills over the course of her six-year tenure, including measures that tripled the waiting period from 24 to 72 hours and banned the use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion. Initially, state Rep. Justin Humphrey called his proposal an effort to make sure fathers support their child from conception, but as the Intercept reports, the lawmaker clarified his position when he said:

I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions. I understand that [women] feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate—what I call them is, is you’re a “host.” And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant.

Article continues:

Supreme Court majority blocks Louisiana law restricting abortion providers – David G. Savage March 4 2016

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana law that would restrict abortion providers

The Supreme Court handed abortion rights advocates a victory Friday by blocking a Louisiana law they said would leave the state with only one doctor licensed to perform the procedure.

The court, with only Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, issued a brief order that restores an earlier judicial ban on enforcing the 2014 state law.

The ruling is a good sign for abortion rights groups in Louisiana and nationwide. Coming shortly after the justices debated a similar Texas law, the order indicates a majority of the high court is unwilling to permit conservative states to enforce stringent regulations, at least for now.

“For the third time in a little over a year, the Supreme Court has stepped in to preserve women’s ability to get the constitutionally protected healthcare they need,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We look to the justices to put an end to these sham measures threatening women’s rights, health and lives across the U.S.”

She was referring to the court’s rulings last year barring Texas from enforcing a similar law and agreeing to decide its constitutionality.

The Supreme Court is engaged in a fierce debate over whether state laws that impose strict regulations on doctors and abortion clinics put an unconstitutional burden on women seeking to end pregnancies.

Article continues:

A Regrettable Decision – By Dahlia Lithwick JULY 23 2015 5:28 PM

This astonishing, anti-science, states’-rights court decision begs for a ban on abortion.

The Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, July 2, 2013. It is the state’s only abortion clinic. Photo by Dan Koeck/Reuters

The Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo, North Dakota, July 2, 2013. It is the state’s only abortion clinic.
Photo by Dan Koeck/Reuters

This week, a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked North Dakota’s so-called fetal heartbeat bill. At first glance, this appears to be a clear victory for abortion rights. The statute—one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation—prohibited, with narrow exceptions, abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is often six weeks post-fertilization, sometimes before a woman knows she is pregnant. The law had been pushed through by a Republican state legislature in 2013 but was almost immediately blocked by a federal district court, which found that it clearly violated the constitutional protections afforded in Roe v. Wade.

Roe established that abortions were permissible pre-viability (currently at about 24 weeks into a pregnancy). As the district court originally determined two years ago, “[a] woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has consistently been upheld by the United States Supreme Court for more than forty years since Roe v. Wade.” The district court also determined that “H.B. 1456 clearly prohibits pre-viability abortions in a very significant percentage of cases in North Dakota, thereby imposing an undue burden on women seeking to obtain an abortion.”

Article continues:

Abortions Drop to Lowest Rate Since 1973 – By Margaret Hartmann |Feb 2 2014 at 10:05 PM

The abortion rate in the United States fell 13 percent between 2008 and 2011, and is now at its lowest point since the Supreme Court legalized the procedure in 1973. A report from the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, found that there were 1.1 million abortions in 2011, or 16.9 per thousand women of childbearing age, down from 2008, when there were 1.21 million abortions, a rate of 19.4 per thousand women. Make of those statistics what you will, because that’s what advocates on both sides are doing. The author attributed her findings to a national decline in pregnancy and birth rates, as well as improved contraceptive use. Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, claimed it just proves, “women are rejecting the idea of abortion as the answer to an unexpected pregnancy.”

With Arizona case, Supreme Court postpones major abortion ruling – By David G. Savage and Richard A. Serrano January 13, 2014, 9:51 p.m.

Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s refusal Monday to revive an Arizona law that largely banned abortions after 20 weeks put off for at least another year a clear constitutional ruling on whether conservative states may adopt new restrictions on women seeking to end their pregnancies.

The decision, marking the third time this term that justices have declined to take up an abortion case, suggested the closely split court is not anxious to jump into the divide between red states and blue states over abortion rights.

Arizona’s law was the court’s first opportunity to comment on the string of state laws that have passed since 2010 limiting abortions to a window less than the 24 weeks commonly accepted under Roe vs. Wade. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Arizona law as unconstitutional last year, and Monday’s action allowed that ruling to stand.

At least 13 other states have passed similar laws and most remain in effect because they are outside the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit. However, legal appeals of those laws could bring the issue back to the Supreme Court later, especially if other appellate courts issue conflicting opinions on the 20-week restriction.

Abortion foes saw Monday’s decision as a major setback. John Eastman, the Orange County attorney who appealed the matter to the high court, predicted it would be at least two to three years before another appellate court issued a conflicting decision.

“The court is just not ready yet,” said Eastman, a Chapman University law professor. “We’re obviously not going to have something this term. And that upsets me.”

Last fall, abortion foes were optimistic that the court’s conservative bloc would use this term to shift to the right on several issues, particularly abortion. They put their hopes on three cases, including Arizona’s, which they said provided an opportunity for justices to take up the controversial issue of “fetal pain.”

Rather than banning abortion outright, conservative groups insisted the state laws sought only to impose restrictions, either for the health of the mother or the child. Abortion rights groups called them veiled attempts to undermine Roe vs. Wade.

The court refused to hear all three of the state appeals. The two other cases came from Oklahoma. The court let stand a lower court ruling that voided a state law effectively banning one of two commonly prescribed abortion-inducing drugs used in the early stages of a pregnancy.

A second decision blocked a law that would have required an ultrasound test for women seeking an abortion. In their unsuccessful appeal, the lawyers representing Oklahoma noted that Ohio had adopted a similar ultrasound law, and a federal court allowed it to take effect.

Abortion opponents criticized the court for declining to examine the new wave of state abortion-restriction laws.

Article continues:,0,7908092.story#axzz2qMrb5Kgz

Ted Cruz Continues Fight For Texas Anti-Abortion Law Ruled Unconstitutional The Huffington Post | By Shadee AshtariPosted: 10/28/2013 7:13 pm EDT

ted cruz texas abortion law

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he doesn’t accept Monday’s federal court declarationthat part of a new Texas abortion law that required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

“Texas passed commonsense legislation to protect the health of women and their unborn children,” Cruz said in a statement. “This law is constitutional and consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent protecting the life and health of the mother and child. I hope the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will uphold Texas’ reasonable law.”

Cruz is staunchly anti-abortion. He disseminated inaccurate birth control information at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, where he misleadingly told the crowd that Obamacare forces Christian businesses to offer employees “abortifacients” or pay millions in fees.

Two of Cruz’ fellow Texas Republicans said they also continue to support the restrictive new abortion law.

“We will be appealing that up to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and I have no doubt that this case is going all the way to the United States Supreme Court,” Greg Abbott, Texas attorney general and Republican candidate for governor said in a statement.

“Today’s decision will not stop our ongoing efforts to protect life and ensure the women of our state aren’t exposed to any more of the abortion-mill horror stories that have made headlines recently,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said in a statement. “We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by the duly-elected officials of our state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texans.”