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She Ran an Abortion Clinic Before Roe v. Wade. She Has Some Thoughts.

NY Times Feature on Merle Hoffman

On May 5th, 2022, Merle Hoffman was featured in the New York Times. Here is an excerpt from the article below:

She Ran an Abortion Clinic Before Roe v. Wade. She Has Some Thoughts.

In 1970, three years before the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, four states, New York among them, repealed their anti-abortion statutes. At the time, Merle Hoffman was a concert pianist who had recently given up her professional ambitions. The world of classical music was too hermetic, but the sweeping political currents of the ’60s had not drawn her in either. She settled on graduate school in psychology, supporting herself with three jobs, one of them in the office of a doctor who wanted to open an abortion clinic and asked her to run it.

This was 1971. “I was home reading Nietzsche and criminology and psychology and practicing Chopin,’’ she told me two days after the country learned, via leak, of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion set to overrule Roe. “So this was not an obvious path.”

In the half-century since Ms. Hoffman accepted the position, she has been at the forefront of the reproductive rights movement as an activist and as the founder and president of Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, one of the first abortion clinics in the country, which grew to provide a range of health services. I asked her if, in the early years after Roe’s passage, she could have anticipated what now appears inevitable. The law “never seemed precarious but it always seemed vulnerable,” she told me. “I should have seen it though because I was going to funerals of people who were murdered.”

She recalled the service for her friend David Gunn in 1993, an obstetrician who performed abortions and who was shot to death outside his clinic in Pensacola by a fundamentalist Christian who had joined a fringe anti-abortion group, a few months earlier, headed by a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. “I was in the bathroom, and Ellie Smeal opened her coat,” she said. Eleanor Smeal had been the president of the National Organization for Women and helped found the Feminist Majority Foundation. “She was wearing a bulletproof vest.”