What’s with the Coat Hanger?

I attended the Stand With WV Women Rally Oct. 09, 2013 at Marshall University as a resident of WV I am not a student. Some people on campus not involved in the rally understood the sign I carried (Pictured above) right away others sadly did not and I’m not just talking about people of my generation, people who were around before Roe v Wade asked me the “What’s that sign mean?” “What’s with the coat hanger?” mostly men. I explained to them what it meant and why I had it once they understood most were very supportive of the cause. This however is not the first time people have asked me “What’s with the coat hanger?” So I want to give everyone a Herstory lesson yes I said Herstory not History. Before Roe V Wade passed in 1973 women did not have the right to safe legal abortions. Yes there was a time when abortion was not legal it was very unsafe and completely unregulated. Women had to give themselves abortions with coat hangers or have someone else give them one with a coat hanger or other tools that are not meant to be used in that way. Women died bleeding to death in kitchens, bathrooms, back alleys, run down buildings and abandoned buildings being used as makeshift clinics or from infections due to highly unsanitary conditions and the women who did not die were at a high risk of never being able to have kids. The people who were performing abortions usually had no medical training at all. Women have been getting abortions or inducing miscarriages by drinking concoctions, throwing themselves down stairs, having people beat them in the stomach etc… since the dawn of time. Making abortion illegal or inaccessible to women who seek them will not stop women from terminating a pregnancy it will just make it less safe and cause women to die.

Geraldine “Gerri” Santoro  who died in 1964 was one of thousands of women who died due to unsafe illegal abortions, she was one of the most publicized she became a symbol of the Pro-Choice Movement after her picture was published in 1973. Gerri took her daughters and left her abusive husband in 1963. She began seeing another man and became pregnant. She found out her abusive husband was on his way to see their daughters fearing for her life if he found out she was pregnant she checked into a hotel with her boyfriend and he tried to perform an abortion on her with tools and a book he had got from a co-worker. When she began hemorrhaging he panicked and ran she was found the next morning by the maid bent over on the floor with a towel covered in blood between her legs dead. My grandmothers generation fought for a womans right to safe legal abortions to prevent women from dying horrible deaths like Geraldine Santoro. They fought very hard so my generation and my mother’s generation wouldn’t have to deal with the same unsafe anti-woman conditions they and women before them had to deal with.

After Roe v Wade my Grandma and my mom escorted women through crowds of Anti-Choice protesters into a women’s clinic in Florida the first in the state. They shielded women who were trying to enter the clinic, because people who opposed abortion threw rocks, screamed and hit women going into the clinic including very pregnant women who were there for prenatal care, Anti-Choice protesters made women go into preterm labor, caused women who had intended on giving birth lose their babies. At other clinics women, clinic escorts and doctors were killed by anti-choice protesters. The lives of every doctor and every clinic escort were in danger daily to this day there are still some anti-choice protesters who bomb clinics, make women give birth prematurely, cause them to lose babies they had intended to have, kill doctors, clinic escorts and women. Its not as bad as it use to be but it is still not easy. In case you didn’t know women’s clinics provide more than just abortions they provide free and/or affordable breast cancer screenings, STD/HIV testing, birth control and prenatal care to name a few.

Abortion is obviously still a hot button issue some people think its a womans choice and some people don’t agree. These are my thoughts on the issue they are very simple. My body my choice, your body your choice. So if you are against abortion don’t get one. Another thing NO ONE is Pro-Abortion we are Pro-Choice meaning it is every woman’s right to choose when and how to start a family its not up to the state, church or anyone else it is between a woman and her doctor and only if your opinion is asked by her may you give it. Ultimately the choice is the womans because it is her body. This is never an easy decision and it is not taken lightly many women agonize over the decision and when they have made a choice they need support whether they choose to keep, give up for adoption or abort they need a support system that will be there for them and back them up if need be. Its her choice to make she knows what is best for herself. So now since you know some of the terrible horrific facts about a time before women had a right to choose tell me are you Pro-Choice or Anti-Choice?

Tell WV Attorney General that you stand with WV women, stop attacking womens clinics and stop trying to push his anti-woman agenda on our state! We won’t go back!! 

Twitter: @WestVirginiaAG @MorriseyWV

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agwestv


State Capitol Complex,  Bldg. 1, Room E-26 Charleston, WV 25305

Phone: (304) 558-2021
Fax: (304) 558-0140



Here is some additional reading on Roe v wade and Geraldine Santoro



Check out the movie If these walls could talk

Check out the documentary about Geraldine Santoro called “Leona’s Sister Gerri”


Picture credits 1st one was taken by WV Planned Parenthood 2nd one was taken by WV Free

About Beth Dortch

I am an unofficial student meaning I am not enrolled in school but I am surrounded by very educated organizers from many different movements who have lived history and have accepted me as a student and young leader.

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