There are few who can discuss abortion from as many perspectives as those held by Mildred Jefferson—the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and a lifelong pro-life activist, who passed away on October 15 at age 84.
She could talk about it as a doctor. She could talk about it as a woman. And, she could talk about it as a black woman.
Born to a Methodist minister in east Texas, Jefferson earned degrees from Texas College and Tufts University before graduating from Harvard in 1951. A surgical internship at Boston City Hospital eventually led to another trailblazing accomplishment: becoming the first female doctor at the former Boston University Medical Center.
Jefferson's involvement in the pro-life movement was prompted in the 1970s by a resolution passed by the American Medical Association allowing members to perform abortions if the procedure was legal in their states. She helped to found the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and served as its president for three years, along with serving in several other pro-life groups.
Darla St. Martin of the NRLC told New York Times reporter Dennis Hevesi that no one spoke for the pro-life movement better than Jefferson: "She probably was the greatest orator of our movement. In fact, take away the probably."
Hevesi also recollects Jefferson's 1981 testimony before Congress in favor of a bill that would have turned abortion into legal murder:
Dr. Jefferson, a surgeon, was speaking in support of a bill, sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and Representative Henry J. Hyde, Republican of Illinois, that sought to declare that human life "shall be deemed to exist from conception." Had it passed, it would have ...1
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