Given that today is apparently the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity and pro-life folks are duct taping their mouths to remind you that fetuses … lack the ability to vocalize or have thoughts to communicate … I thought it’d be a good idea to delve into another kind of silence: the silence from my home town’s pro-choice contingent.
It’s fascinating; I like to spend a fair amount of my Internet time on Yahoo! Answers, and twice now I’ve come across abortion-related questions pertaining to Modesto … asking from the pro-life perspective. I of course answered each of them precisely the way I’d like mine to be answered (respectfully, with good information), but nonetheless, it’s sad that the other side just doesn’t seem to be there (or they’re hiding very well). My Google Alerts inevitably pop up with, unsurprisingly, only posts from this very blog. Far as I can tell, I’m about the only person on the whole wide Interwebs talking about Modesto and reproductive health/rights issues.
Except, as I’m finding out, the landscape didn’t always used to be so barren for the pro-choice Modesto and Central Valley community.
In one of my very random late-night boredom Google searches, I stumbled across the Fall 2001 newsletter of the Women’s Health Rights Coalition (a.k.a. the WHRC), featuring an article written by Modestan Fred Herman in honor of Abortion Access Month and detailing his experiences as a clinic escort and member of the Modesto People For Choice. According to the WHRC, People For Choice (PFC) began in the wake of the 1989 Webster decision that limited Roe v. Wade rights.
It’s hard to find much more information on Modesto People For Choice beyond that. The group gets a mention in this 1989 Modesto Bee article about California candidates, and elsewhere, some names are dropped- former president Mary Menz is mentioned in this article about Gary Condit, co-founder Yvonne Allen is listed on Stanislaus Connections and wrote with co-chair Peggy Mensinger (R.I.P) a joint letter to the editor in a 1989 issue of The Modesto Bee about Terry Randall and Operation rescue, and Berthalee Kuderna’s name can be found on this site talking exclusively about stuff done in 1992- but beyond that it remains, essentially, a mystery.
It’s not surprising to me that it [apparently] no longer exists- ten years is a long time for a single-issue, local organization in a medium-sized town to last, particularly without the aid of robust online social networking that is so often employed today, and without the “Summer of Mercy”-style theatrics and national culture war over abortion that raged in the 1990’s to motivate and mobilize pro-choicers.
It both makes me sad (where did it go? how did it fade into obscurity?) and gives me hope: it used to exist, and perhaps it could rise again- particularly with our current sad state of affairs when it comes to reproductive rights.