T.R.M. Howard: Civil Rights Rabble-Rouser, Abortion Provider

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Echoing Ida blogger Cynthia Greenlee was recently published in Dissent Magazine. Excerpted below is the beginning of her article on T.R.M. Howard who, among many things, reminds us that "all abortion activism did not emerge from a mainly white mainstream feminism" and "how central African Americans have always been to the fight to maintain reproductive freedom."

By Cynthia Greenlee

This is not a famous picture, but it should be. Forty years ago, the March 22, 1973 issue of Jetmagazine featured Dr. T.R.M. Howard and a staffer attending a prostrate female patient on its cover, all under a yellow headline: “Legal Abortion: Is it Genocide or Blessing in Disguise?” This remarkable image reportedly depicts preparations for one of the first legal abortions in Illinois (though it could also have been staged).

Just two months after the Supreme Court legalized abortion in the Roe v. Wade decision and a week after Illinois OKed the procedure on its soil, Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Mason (or T.R.M.) Howard began performing legal abortions at his Friendship Medical Center in Chicago. According to the accompanying feature story, black and white women alike jammed the clinic’s waiting room and phone lines. Outside, Jesse Jackson—once a protégée of Howard’s—picketed and called abortion black genocide.


Cynthia R. Greenlee is a blogger for Echoing Ida, a project of Strong Families. She is a doctoral candidate in history at Duke University and lives in North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter at @CynthiaGreenlee

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