A Womb With a View: Gloria Allred on U.S. Supreme Court Overturning Roe V. Wade (Guest Column)

The high-profile attorney and women’s rights activist shares her personal story, and what Hollywood can do to help fight back against what she calls the “war against women.”

gloria allred roe v wade
Benedict Evans for Variety

It is perfectly natural for me to write this. After all, I am one of many who is affected by the decision of four men and one woman in black robes.

Before I share my view with you, however, I would like to tell you a little bit about my life.

I first came into existence in the body of an American female. I didn’t ask to be born female. It was a combination of DNA, genes, fate and who knows what else. In any case, I was happy in the body that I called home. Except for a time when I reached puberty and had to put up with swelling, cramps and sometimes painful monthly menstrual cycles, everything was going well.

As the owner of my body once said, “I had a brain and a uterus, and they both worked.” I went to a school with other girls where a great deal of attention was paid to the brain in my body. The female whose body I inhabited was told not to talk about certain parts of my body “down there,” and not to let a male inside my body until I was married. I didn’t know why. I was just told that “good girls” did what they were told by adults who knew better and had their interests at heart.

Of course, the problem with this advice is that it assumed that I would always be the one who had control over my own body. That turned out to be only partially true for many reasons, including that some men decided that they had a right to make decisions about my womb and the wombs of other women and girls, whether we liked it or not.

I learned this the hard way in what my father would have called “the college of hard knocks.” After being raped at gunpoint in Mexico in the 1960s, I returned to California and found that I was pregnant.

To my astonishment, I was told that I could not get a legal abortion because, at that time in California and in many other states, it was a crime for a doctor to give one.

Like many other wombs, that meant that I had to find a stranger to provide me with a back-alley abortion in exchange for the money I would pay him.

My life was in his hands. He did the abortion and then left me hemorrhaging in a bathtub, in a pool of my own blood. When I asked him for help, he said that he couldn’t help me with that part. He only did the abortion and didn’t take care of what happened after that. At some point, an ambulance took me to the hospital where I was packed in ice to bring down my fever of 106 degrees, which had been caused by the infection from the illegal abortion.

I survived, but many other wombs that I knew did not make it. They and the other female bodies which had protected them became victims of a crime that had been forced upon them — illegal, unsafe abortions.

At the time, I could not understand why it was a crime for a doctor or a nurse to help wombs, which had become pregnant. I did not know who and why anyone had decided that wombs would not be permitted to have a safe and legal medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy.

It took many years for me to learn that the law, which made abortion a crime, was in the main made by human beings who did not have wombs and would never be pregnant. For some reason, these womb-less humans thought that I and other wombs lost the right to decide if we wanted to remain pregnant or not.

This was shocking to me because I grew up thinking that I controlled these decisions about my body.

Then in 1973, the United States Supreme Court decided that women had a constitutional right to decide if they wanted to terminate their pregnancy or not, and if they did make that decision to terminate, at least in the first trimester of their pregnancy, then they could have the option of a safe and legal abortion.

Wombs all over the nation, and in many other countries, celebrated the decision in the United States Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. It meant that women and girls did not have to risk their lives with illegal abortions. For decades after that, wombs were safe from politicians who wanted to make abortion a crime, as it was in many states prior to Roe v. Wade.

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Gloria Allred with Norma McCorvey, known in court documents as Jane Roe, at a rally in 1989. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fast forward to June 24, 2022. That same U.S. Supreme Court with different justices reversed Roe v. Wade, and decided that those with wombs no longer had the right to safe and legal abortions. Their states could decide that wombs should be compelled to carry a pregnancy to term or take the risk of an illegal and dangerous abortion, even if the wombs were pregnant because of rape, incest and even if the life of the woman with the womb was endangered. This new decision was made by four justices who had no wombs and would never be pregnant, and one person who had a womb, and many children and whose religion taught her that abortion was a sin.

This new decision will mainly hurt young women, poor women, rural women and women of color. Those women have the most vulnerable wombs because it will be difficult or impossible for many of them to travel to other states to obtain a legal and safe abortion. Many do not have the financial resources to travel. Many cannot leave their children, if they are single parents. Many cannot leave their jobs to travel to another state.

Of course, wombs in the bodies of wealthy women will not be affected because these wombs will have the financial support to travel to other states or other countries where abortion will be safe and legal. Unfortunately, however, many millions of wombs in about half the states will not have that luxury.

What is a womb to do? We need an action plan for this crisis.

As a womb who has been there and suffered what the vulnerable wombs will suffer, here is my suggested action plan for wombs and those who want to protect them:

  • First, we must continue to do what Mother Jones once suggested: “Don’t agonize. Organize.”
  • We must go to the streets and condemn this decision and explain the simple concept that we are the ones who should have the right to control our own bodies and our own reproductive futures.
  • Next, we must remember in November. In every state, we must elect pro-choice state and federal candidates and vote out the mandatory motherhood crowd. Wombs have the power to change the laws in their states and in our country. We did it in California, and wombs can do it in other states, as well, once they understand their own power to accomplish that.
  • We must recognize that we need to raise money to win this war against women and their wombs. A war chest to support pro-choice candidates is necessary to stop this war against women and their wombs.
  • While this war is pending, we also need to support Planned Parenthood and other organizations who are helping women. They recognize that many pregnancies are not planned. They are the results of accidents, or they are caused by a crime against the woman or girl and her womb.
  • We need to understand that women and their wombs have never been given any rights. We have always had to fight to win them and preserve them.
  • We must recognize that this will be a long war, with many exhausting and ugly battles. It is not for the faint of heart. Politics is a blood sport. It can be brutal because it is played by those who want to gain or maintain their power. Wombs have become political weapons for them.
  • Bans on abortion are often supported by politicians who want to punish our wombs and deny pregnant women a choice, if it will help them keep or obtain a political career. We need more wombs to run for office and kick those out of office who want to control women and endanger their lives.
  • We must support and contribute to the many legal battles ahead. There will be numerous attempts in anti-choice states to invade women’s privacy. For example, there may be efforts by politicians and prosecutors in anti-choice states to learn why a womb, which was once pregnant, is no longer pregnant. Anti-choice vigilantes may try to obtain the private medical records of a woman, in order to learn information about her menstrual cycle and why her pregnancy ended.  Legal battles will need to be fought in order to enforce HIPPA laws and protect wombs. Mandatory motherhood states may arrest women who seek and obtain abortions in their states. Those states may also interfere with medication abortions by prohibiting telemedicine consultations with doctors. These consultations are necessary before the abortion pill can be shipped to a womb who wants to take it in the privacy of their home.
  • Pro-choice states should not do business with other states who ban abortions.
  • Entertainment guild members, including SAG AFTRA, DGA, Producers’ Guild, Writers’ Guild, plus the technical and craft guilds, should not participate in making films in states that ban abortions.  Demand that our unions protect our vulnerable wombs by taking this action. Let everyone know that it is not necessary to have a womb to support those who have one.
  • Always remember all of the women who died or will die from illegal and unsafe abortions and pledge to do what Mother Jones urged us to do, “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!”

From the bottom of my heart and my womb, I urge you to join me in fighting for justice for women. I am no longer a “good girl.” I am now a fearless womb warrior.

A partner in the Los Angeles law firm, Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, Allred’s legal career has spanned more than four decades with her work focused on championing women’s rights. The famed attorney and activist has won hundreds of millions of dollars and precedent-setting cases for women and minorities. She has represented victims against Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly, to name a few. Many of her battles for women’s rights are covered in the Netflix documentary, “Seeing Allred.” 
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, protecting a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion. The case was brought on by an anonymous plaintiff, a woman named Norma McCorvey, better known in court documents as Jane Roe. McCorvey was later represented by Allred when she came forward publicly as a pro-choice advocate in the late 80’s. Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling, Roe v. Wade has been overturned.