Jane Hodgson, MD, a longtime crusader for abortion rights, died last week at the age of 91. Dr. Hodgson was the first doctor convicted for performing an illegal abortion in 1970, a conviction that was overturned in 1973 with the US Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade. She was motivated to break the law by performing an abortion after treating countless women injured and suffering from unsafe, back-alley abortions.
“People in the United States don’t know these horrors,” said Dr. Hodgson in an interview that was part of “Voices of Choice,” a multimedia project focusing on the stories of pre-Roe abortion providers, according to Alternet.org. “Nor do they remember what women’s lives were like here [in the US] before abortion became legal. Before 1973, single women who got pregnant were fired from their jobs. Younger ones were sent to maternity homes for unwed mothers and their children were put up for adoption. Married women who got pregnant were forced to carry pregnancies to term regardless of their circumstances – even if they had so many children that they couldn’t afford to feed another one; even if they had metastasized cancer; even if their fetuses couldn’t live outside the womb because these fetuses had developed without a heart or brain.”
Dr. Hodgson remained a lifelong champion for women’s reproductive rights, traveling from her home in St, Paul, Minnesota 150 miles away to Duluth to perform abortions in her eighties. “She was a unique crusader who risked her life for the cause of women’s reproductive rights,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “Even when she was targeted by the anti-abortion movement, she never let up. She even spent her vacations volunteering in developing countries where abortion is illegal.”
Among her many accomplishments, Dr. Hodgson was a founder of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; she established women’s health clinics across Minnesota; she trained doctors to perform abortions; and she was the lead plaintiff in a 1990 US Supreme Court case challenging Minnesota’s parental notification law, which lacked a judicial bypass option, according to the Star Tribune. She was also featured in the Feminist Majority Foundation video, “Abortion for Survival.”