My first memory of of someone telling me what to do with my body was when a couple of older boys caught me in the woods and beat me up when I was ten.
“Stop acting like a boy,” they yelled at me as they pummeled my body with fists.
In that moment a rebellion against bullies became hard wired into my soul. My power girl soul, not a tomboy’s. Ten years later in Boston I became swept up in what I surely thought was the second revolution….women’s, gay, and black liberation movements were exploding, and above it all like a giant umbrella was the anti Vietnam War movement. It was there that I saw up close how Boston schools were more segregated than Charlotte, that there actually were hundreds of gay people coming out (pre-LGBTQ designation), that friends of mine were being shipped off to Vietnam, and that a fully intrinsic part of all of this were strong women leaders organizing.
My first full time organizer job was with the Boston Women’s Abortion Action Coalition. Because this was before the Roe v Wade decision, we organized marches and meetings where again strong women finally stood up. It was there I learned about the women who risked their lives to have illegal abortions, and the stories were chilling.
I remember in one meeting an older woman with two grown daughters with her stood up and told about her illegal abortion. Her children were totally surprised, having no idea she had done this. “You were so young, just toddlers, and I feared for my life and yours from my abusive husband, your father. I made secret plans to leave and take you with me. And then I became pregnant again.” She looked down at her seated children and said, “I never would have been able to leave if I carried this pregnancy to term, and we all might be dead. I made that decision and I don’t regret it.”
During the next few years we organized thousands of women “with their fists held high, saying no more butchers would see us die!” We marched in the streets of Boston, then in Washington. And the Supreme Court heard us.
I moved back to Charlotte in 1976, pretty worn out from all the organizing, only to see a few short years later that a violent backlash was occurring against clinics that performed abortions. I joined a group of women to protect a clinic in the Metroview building at the intersection of Randolph and Caswell. On our first “clinic defense” a group of about twenty men (I don't remember any women) rushed us at the door, threw us down violently (I remember crashing over a three foot tall ash tray in the lobby). They got on the elevators to the 6th floor clinic and sat together in the hall outside totally blocking the clinic until the police finally arrived and removed them. We were able to successfully counter them later by organizing dozens of folks, mostly women, to protect this clinic and also Planned Parenthood’s Clinic on Stonewall St.
Attacks on clinics in the eighties and early nineties were becoming more and more violent, with one doctor being killed and another wounded in 1993. One of the shooters was a member of Flip Benham’s Operation Save America. The same Flip Benham that we encounter almost every day now. But the violence resulted in the FACE Act….which “makes it a federal crime to use force, the threat of force, or physical obstruction to prevent individuals from obtaining or providing reproductive health care services.”
And now with almost unlimited funds, anti abortion groups are again escalating their tactics to stop clinics from operating. The harassment, shaming, buying of politicians, and worse are on the rise. We have a multi faceted battle against these people and hope you will join us if you have not already. I will fight until my last breath to protect women’s right to control our own bodies and lives. I take North Carolina’s slogan to heart: “Don't Tread on Me.”
- Diana Travis