Peggy Loonan is the Founder and Director of Life and Liberty for Women. Here we talk about her life, work, and views.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you develop into an activist for the liberty of women, the autonomy of women?
Peggy Loonan: I think my desire to make legal abortion my focus grew out of an abusive relationship I experienced in my early 20’s. I managed to escape the relationship but took with me a determination that I would never again allow myself to be, in any way, shape, or form manipulated and controlled by a man. The me before this man had been somewhat of a rebel. That rebel arose to eradicate myself from the relationship and became the guiding factor in how I moved forward.
The renewed rebel in me became overwhelmingly incensed at the nomination of Robert Bork, a strict constructionist and opposed to Roe vs. Wade. I had never before been political but I was angry that an old white man would sit on the Supreme Court and decide whether women had a right to decide if and when they would become a mother exerting that male control over women and women’s bodies.
I began to write letters on an old typewriter – this was before personal computers – to Senators and my supportive husband and 3-year-old daughter attended a Pro-Choice rally in D.C. I felt empowered and accomplished that my part – though a small part – helped to stop Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
Abortion became a symbol to me for the ultimate autonomy of women to direct their own lives.
Jacobsen: What tasks and responsibilities come with founding a 501(c)(3) organization? What tasks and responsibilities come with being its Executive Director?
Loonan: I began Life and Liberty for Women in 1999. I had been on the Board of Directors of CO NARAL for four years. I had become disheartened and frustrated with the safe message box they and other mainstream abortion rights groups were stuck in…. and in my opinion…are still stuck in.
It was a daunting process to collect the necessary paperwork to submit for founding a 501(c) (3). It took a few months.
The most important responsibility for founding a c-3 and being its Executive Director is what are our goals, methods and most importantly our message. I didn’t start LLW to be just another pro-choice organization. I had a more direct, in-your-face, fight fire with fire message. I dared to talk about God, Bible, and abortion. I dared to debate anti-abortion people because I was sure and clear of my message. I felt the message had to show many new generations aware of what illegal abortion looked like in this nation. I dared to put side-by-side with anti-abortion 18ft high pictures of alleged aborted fetuses’ graphic pictures of what illegal abortion looks like. I dared to challenge anti-abortion GROUPS to state the legal conclusion that is obvious to their decade’s old mantra that “abortion IS murder,” which now they finally are doing. That consequence: criminalizing abortion again means making criminals out of women and teens; subjects them to life in prison or the death penalty. There is no way out of that mantra.
Jacobsen: As an abortion rights educational group, what myths exist around abortion? What truths dispel them?
Loonan: The biggest myth spun is that women wait until they are about to deliver to decide that they just don’t want to become a mother and seeks an abortion in the 9th month of pregnancy. Out of that myth has come dangerous legislation to curtail and stop necessary and life saving third trimester abortions. Statistics bear out in neon that the myth is an outright lie. The anecdotal information out there belies that myth. And from the outset, the mainstream abortion rights groups response to this myth, was never adequate and as a result, in my opinion, the myth became so out of control so uncontainable as to unleash legislation across the country.
Jacobsen: What aspects of public information about abortion are misunderstandings? What parts are misrepresentations? What components are deliberate and cynical lies for political, financial, or religious gain?
Loonan: First, there are, of course, right leaning media outlets, TV and print, that as a matter of practice distorts, lie, and omit to push their anti-abortion anti-contraceptive agendas.
I am constantly frustrated by mainstream media. I’m sure that most mainstream media, TV and print, do not intend to mislead or lie but the fact is that the media’s 30-second sound-bite world, TV and print, lends itself to propagating misinformation. The media doesn’t get it right because they aren’t educated enough on the specific topic, they only reach out to mainstream abortion rights groups who are stuck in old message boxes, and they have no clue on how they report something will be seen through the eyes of anti-abortion groups or persons not well educated on the subject.
Jacobsen: When abortion is not safe, free, and equitably accessible, as a fundamental human right, what happens to the health and wellbeing of women?
Loonan: We can look to other countries where today abortion is illegal or highly restricted to see how illegal abortion and lack of contraceptives affects women’s overall health and reproductive health. Being unable to plan and space children harm’s women’s overall health and ability to have healthy children. Women who are forced into the underground to terminate a pregnancy places her life in jeopardy. And when abortion isn’t legal, women risk punishment even death at the hands of a government.
What would be different today if abortion was illegal? Misoprostol aka: Cytotec and mifepristone aka: RU-486. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/07/after-abortion-is-illegal/565430/
If we criminalize abortion again, investigations will take on a new face. Abortion drugs by mail, in the underground, like buying heroin on the street corner. We could see women seeking underground surgical abortions later in pregnancy because the drug in the mail was not what it was sold to be. We could see women hurt and die from contaminated abortion drugs. We could also see women troll the Internet for old fashioned ways of aborting.
Then you have the coming out of radical anti-abortion legislation like in Texas, that would punish women for an illegal abortion including putting them to death. https://ijr.com/texas-pro-life-bill-punish-women-abortions-death-penalty/
What we should be doing is leaving abortion safe and legal and then come together to reduce the need for abortions with abstinence-based comprehensive sex education, more birth control research, better access to contraceptives like with Obamacare, free birth control, and men and condoms.
Jacobsen: Who tend to be the main opposition to women taking control of their lives, in general, and their reproductive lives, in particular? What seems to be the fundamental, bedrock reason for wanting to restrict women’s right to choose?
Loonan: The religious right rose to political power as a response to gay rights, women’s rights and Roe vs. Wade. The Bible talks about women being in subjection to a male god and to husbands. Organized Christian religion is the world of men in which men are made out to be kings.
Christianity has never, at heart, been a friend to women. If you control women’s reproduction options you can control women’s ability to participate in American society outside of being someone’s wife and someone’s mother. When men, white men particularly, are elevated above all other human beings, women specifically, by their God and religious writings which found a woman to be the one who let evil into the Garden of Eden, it should not surprise us that men attempt to control women’s fertility even in civil law.
Jacobsen: Any recommended authors or organizations?
Loonan: I would urge people to read about our own history of illegal abortion.
· Doctor’s of Conscience; The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe vs Wade, Carole Joffe
· The Abortionist; A Woman Against the Law, Rickie Solinger
· When Abortion Was A Crime; Women, Medicine and Law in the United States, 1867-1973, Leslie J. Reagan
· The Story of Jane; The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service, Laura Kaplan
Jacobsen: Any final feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Loonan: Several generations have grown up with a guaranteed right to safe legal abortion and access to contraceptives. But those generations have no historical context of how they got those rights because they aren’t taught in school. The Supreme Court and the Federal courts are, at this very moment, being stacked by the right wing that could bring about the demise of Roe vs. Wade. Without a federal recognition of the right to abortion and access to contraceptives, we will once again have a hodge-podge of abortion/contraceptive laws across the US. And we will once again have to begin a grassroots hand to hand combat to win back a nationwide recognition of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive rights decision based on her own set of religious and moral values.
Access to modern female hormonal birth control has been under attack by the right through so-called Personhood Amendments that mean to overturn Roe and restrict birth control methods to religiously acceptable contraceptive methods.
We must begin to debate (not a strategy of mainstream abortion rights organizations) those determined to take away a woman’s right to an abortion and contraceptives and not cower from such debates. How else will generations who were never here to fight the first fight understand how to fight for it a second time around?
We must keep in the public conscience the horrific pictures of how illegal abortion hurt and killed women then and would now.
Current generations of women who have been told by parents that they can be whatever they want to be, do whatever they want to do from serving in the military, to serving in government, to being a CEO, a scientist, a biologist……but that cannot happen if women can’t be in complete charge of their reproductive lives including access to legal abortion and all contraceptives on the market.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Peggy.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
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