A Woman’s Right to Choose

Sign for International Women’s Day 4. Original public domain image from Flickr

Planned Parenthood
By Marilyn Myerson

Almost thirty years ago, I’m sitting at my desk at USF, and the phone rings—it’s an old friend from Sarasota. She invites me to join the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of SouthWest and Central Florida, based in Sarasota.

“Yes!” I immediately replied. She went on, listing reasons why I should join despite my crowded schedule, as associate dean and women’s studies faculty member. All of a sudden, she caught her breath and realized that I had wholeheartedly agreed. The recent murder of yet another abortion provider had galvanized me, and I was thrilled to have a practical outlet for my outrage.

Photo Credit: Robin Marty, 2018

Subsequently, I travelled to Sarasota once a month, energized by the shared purpose, dedication and activism of the Board and the amazing staff, who enriched clients’ lives on a daily basis. I was honoured to be board chair from 1997 to 2001.

I felt so at home with Planned Parenthood. While abortion is what the name Planned Parenthood erroneously but commonly conjures up, that is a minor but nonetheless essential part of their services. Overall, Planned Parenthood is dedicated to providing access to high quality health care and education. As a sexuality educator in Women’s Studies at USF, I was beyond excited to be part of this mission.

Planned Parenthood stands at the forefront of providing choice: choice about bodily autonomy in all dimensions, which in turn promotes our ability to be full participants in the practice of democracy.

Free public domain CC0 photo.

Plan B to the Rescue
By Diane Henrikson Russell

My boyfriend and I were making out at college nine months after the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. Things were getting more intense when I said we should stop. He said, “It’s too late.” I froze and said something like, “What??”

My mind raced. There was no marriage talk to date, and I was graduating that semester with a vague plan to move back home to the Chicago suburbs and get a job using my degree. My boyfriend had big plans to get a master’s degree in the Northeast.

I was very worried about inheriting the huge gynecological problems my mom had in carrying my two sisters and me to term. At age six, I personally witnessed her threatened miscarriage. I was with her when she experienced mandatory bedrest for nine months during two pregnancies. I was less worried about what society, or my family would think if I did have a baby out of wedlock.

I knew I was going to have to stop any development before it started. Luckily, I learned in my sex education class that the FDA approved Plan B (the Morning-After Pill) just weeks earlier.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart, 2014

I went to the student health center the next morning. I was embarrassed to tell the nurse that I had unprotected sex. I received the prescription with instructions to take the first pill within 72 hours and to take the remaining pills in the next five days.

I read about the severe side effects in advance. I took each pill as directed, and I was not able to keep any food down. I drank Teem (like Sprite) and ate crackers and beef broth in my room. My boyfriend was so concerned that he even did my laundry.

My friends became worried that I was not getting better. They wanted to escort me to the student health center so I could get treatment for what I said was a stomach bug. I resisted their pleas. Shortly afterwards, I quietly returned to the student health center alone. I described my symptoms and received another prescription: an anti-nausea drug.

Thankfully, the anti-nausea drug took effect quickly, so I finished all the doses of Plan B on schedule. I was relieved to resume attending classes and participating in my other activities. More importantly, my boyfriend and I were ecstatic when a pelvic exam revealed no pregnancy later that month. We were much more careful going forward.

I have no regrets almost 50 years later that I disrupted the baby-making process. I was glad that I was free to make this crucial decision about my body with no governmental interference.

Defend Roe v. Wade Rally in Milwaukee on May 7, 2022. Photo Credit: Susan Ruggles from Milwaukee, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marilyn Myerson, PhD Philosophy, has learned to take nothing for granted and to have fun. She retired from USF after 38 years of teaching, learning and kicking up her heels in Women’s and Gender Studies. Marilyn was the first outside hire in W(G)S, starting in 1973, when the department was just one year old. She was an administrator at various departmental and dean’s levels, including a stint as W(G)S Chair before her retirement as Emeritus faculty in 2010. She shepherded the Human Sexual Behavior class through its many incarnations, developed the original women’s health classes, and taught feminist research methodology. She is currently in three writing groups, and happily involved with OLLI-USF, taking art and writing classes. She created and teaches OLLI Imaginative Writing classes and facilitates writing groups.

Diane Russell

Diane Henrikson Russell joined OLLI in 2014. She has taken over 70 OLLI courses on leadership, radio, life story writing, Tai Chi, healthy aging, literature, science, politics, sociology, and humanities. Diane volunteers as a proofreader for the OLLI catalog and for OLLI Connects. Diane has been Co-chair of the Volunteer Management Committee since 2019.

5 Replies to “A Woman’s Right to Choose”

  1. Thank you both for sharing these stories. When I first moved to Tampa in 1989, my first OB/GYN visit was with a Planned Parenthood clinic; I didn’t have health insurance yet as those were the days before insurance portability was a thing. My heart hurts for those women who will have to bear children against their own wishes, health and better judgement.

  2. Thank you all for your comments. It is important for our generation to keep
    this conversation going.

  3. Thank for Sharing

    The More Good Choices = The More Good Freedom of Choices
    What can be possibly be wrong with this equation?

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