Message from Merle
2019 marks the 48th year of Choices and the 46th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Interestingly enough, these Anniversaries have become even more important to me than close birthdays.
I remember one January (1998) in particular in New York City’s Bryant Park. In the midst of the blinding snow and howling winds of what the papers termed “the worst blizzard of the decade,” I was part of a band of dedicated pro-choice activists who were passionately celebrating the anniversary of Roe v. Wade–and just as passionately attacking those who opposed it.
Years before, on another anniversary, I debated Nellie Gray, the organizer of the annual anti-abortion march on Washington. She was small, sinewy and angry.
She told me that we were a modern version of the Lincoln-Douglass debates. I smiled in recognition until I realized that she was positioning me as Douglass. “We’ll stop our attacks when you put down your knives and stop the killing,” she told me. “And your vision of women’s roles would be to butcher them with illegal abortions or turn them into baby-making slaves,” I replied.
2018 has also been an extremely challenging year. We lost the federal lawsuit the former New York Attorney General brought against the antis that is now being appealed.
Continuing attacks on clinics across the country and women’s right to abortion along with the rise of creative obstacles to birth control and prenatal care have placed the movement on the defensive.
People often ask me whether it is “a burden” to do the work I do, or whether or not I get depressed or dispairing that the battles I fought almost half a century ago are still going on.
I tell them it is not a burden but rather a calling and a responsibility. I realized long ago that these battles over women’s lives and agency will not be won in my lifetime or even in the immediate generations after mine.
I tell them that I believe it is a privilege to be part of the struggle and usually quote my old dear friend Florynce Kennnedy who always told me, “Girl, you’ve got to love the struggle.“
This newsletter is a great reminder of all the things that have moved forward this year at Choices. These accomplishments and more are evidence that in spite of the challenges, there are so many possibilities for improving women’s lives.
Any time I read a headline that drains my hope I need only walk through the Choices waiting area and see a room full of people waiting for services sitting adjacent to the mural of female superheroes. Although the women in the mural are fictional, I see their ferocity and valiance mirrored in the patients who are everyday heroes and the work of my incredible staff.
-Merle Hoffman, Founder and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center