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Deep Care: The Radical Activists Who Provided Abortions, Defied the Law, and Fought to Keep Clinics Open

AK Press9781849355261

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The story of the radical feminist networks who worked outside the law to defend abortion.
Starting in the 1970s, small groups of feminist activists met regularly to study anatomy, practice pelvic exams on each other, and learn how to safely perform a procedure known as menstrual extraction, which can end a pregnancy, using equipment easily bought and assembled at home. This “self-help” movement grew into a robust national and international collaboration of activists determined to ensure access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, at all costs—to the point of learning how to do the necessary steps themselves. 
Even after abortion was legalized in 1973 with Roe v. Wade, activists continued meeting, studying, and teaching these skills, reshaping their strategies alongside decades of changing legal, medical, and cultural landscapes such as the legislative war against abortion rights, the AIDS epidemic, and the rise of anti-abortion domestic terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s. From the self-help movement sprang a constellation of licensed feminist clinics, community programs to promote reproductive health, even the nation’s first known-donor sperm bank, all while fighting the oppression of racism, poverty, and gender violence. The movement’s drive to keep abortion accessible also led to the first clinic defense mobilizations against anti-abortion extremists trying to force providers to close their doors.
Deep Care follows generations of activists and health workers who orbited the Women’s Choice Clinic in Oakland from the early 1970s until 2010, as they worked underground and above ground, in small cells and broad coalitions and across political movements with grit, conviction, and allegiances of great trust to do what they believed needed to be done—despite the law, when required. Grounded in interviews with activists sharing details of their work for the first time, Angela Hume reveals this critical, under-recognized story of the radical edge of the abortion movement. These lessons are more pertinent than ever following the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson decision and the devastation to abortion access nationwide.