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Lifetime Abortion and Contraceptive Rights Advocate Ruth Proskauer Smith Dies

Lifelong abortion and contraceptive rights advocate and NARAL founding member Ruth Proskauer Smith died late last week at age 102 in New York City. According to the New York Times, Smith’s politics were influenced by her mother, Alice Naumberg, who co-founded the right-to-die group Euthanasia Society of America. After earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Radcliffe, Smith began her activist career as a fieldworker and later as executive secretary for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. She also served as executive director of the Human Betterment Association for Voluntary Sterilization. In 1969, Smith sat on the first steering committee for the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America. NARAL Pro-Choice New York president Kelli Conlin told the Wall Street Journal, “It took real courage to be on the front lines of these kinds of issues…We have what we have today as far as women’s autonomy and independence thanks to Ruth Proskauer Smith.” Smith received a lifetime achievement award from NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health in 2009. In a video (watch here) made to commemorate this award, Smith said, “I’m very worried about the people who are complacent about their so-called right to choose, because it’s very endangered…The people who have taken for granted that they could get an abortion or the morning-after pill. All those rights are endangered, along with their other civil liberties, and they had better stand up and speak.”

Sources:

The Wall Street Journal 1/26/2010; New York Times 1/26/2010; NARAL Pro-Choice New York Video 9/22/09