One Voice Now: The First National Women at Risk Conference
by Amy R. Sobie
More than 80 women and men from 27 states gathered in St. Louis, Mo., on August 7th and 8th for the first national conference of Women at Risk, a national coalition of women and families injured by abortion.
At the conference, participants discussed the goals and strategies of Women at Risk and made plans to move ahead with the formation of state and local chapters throughout the country. One of their major goals is implementing pro-woman legislation that would protect women from unwanted and dangerous abortions.
The conference participants unanimously adopted a resolution asking Congress to amend the Civil Rights Act to make withholding information about abortion risks a violation of federal law. The Civil Rights Act provides criminal and civil remedies in federal courts for persons whose civil rights are violated in certain fundamental ways.
“The Supreme Court itself has ruled that it is ‘imperative’ that women must be given all the information about the nature and risks of abortion that a reasonable patient might desire,” said Elliot Institute director Dr. David Reardon, who spoke at the conference. “This resolution simply asks Congress to enforce that ruling.”
The conference participants also looked at ways to make it easier for women who have been injured by abortion to seek compensation for physical and emotional injuries. Ann Vogel, a registered nurse and a cofounder of Women at Risk, said that abortion should be treated just like any other surgical procedure when it comes to the information the patient is given.
“In abortion, the standard of care is not met, primarily because there is no time for the patient to make an unhurried decision,” Vogel said. “Like most surgeries, this is not something that can be undone, and it requires careful consideration. It is also a doctor’s responsibility to make sure this is a fully-informed decision.”
Women at Risk holds that the abuse of patient rights by the abortion industry will not be resolved until it becomes easier for women to recover compensation for physical and emotional injuries resulting from abortion. Ted Amshoff of Amshoff & Amshoff, a legal firm that deals with cases involving abortion injuries, spoke about the role of civil litigation in protecting women from incompetent and dangerous abortionists.
“Until legislation is passed to protect them, women can still seek justice one-on-one through the courts,” Amshoff said. “You don’t need politicians for justice. All you need are twelve people in a jury box.”
Conference coordinator Miriam Dapra said that she was very excited about the turnout at the conference and the enthusiasm of those who attended it. She added that Women at Risk also generated a lot of interest among people throughout the country who were unable to attend the conference.
“We have only touched the surface with this conference,” Dapra said. “There is a great deal of interest among the people who contacted us but who were unable to come. We will be doing a lot of hands-on follow up work both with people who were at the conference and with people who were unable to come but who are interested in supporting and working with Women at Risk.”
Dapra added that the group was planning to do intensive hands-on training with state and local chapters during the next year.
“One of the goals of the conference was to have participants from each state or region discuss among themselves what they could do when they got home,” Dapra explained. “The state of Illinois, for example, had one of the largest contingents in attendance, and its extremely heartening to know that they were one of the states that went home with a specific agenda for setting up a state chapter. I fully expect the same thing to happen within the next few months in several other states.”
Vogel said that Women at Risk’s pro-woman focus makes the organization a “haven” for women who have been injured by abortion.
“Women at Risk is about giving women their voice back,” Vogel said. “This is about letting us control our situation rather than letting the situation control us.”
Membership in Women at Risk is open to anyone who has been hurt physically or emotionally by abortion–men, women, grandparents, and siblings–as well as anyone who is simply concerned about protecting women from unwanted and dangerous abortions.
More information on Women at Risk can be found at http://members.tripod.com/~womenatrisk. Women at Risk can also be reached at: PO Box 7375, Springfield, IL 62791, (217) 525-5879, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in The Post-Abortion Review 6(3) Summer 1998. Copyright 1998 Elliot Institute.