Looking Back

When Local Clergy Went Underground: The Last Time Abortion Was Illegal

by Carol Kammen

In 1968, women with troubled pregnancies had no place to turn. Abortion was illegal, and, when available, often unsafe.That was the year local clergy stepped in to help, led by Rev. David Evans of the First Baptist Church in Ithaca.

When the Clergy Went Underground is a readers’ script that I have developed from Evans’s memoir of the Upstate New York Clergy Consultation Service (CCS). A network of ministers, rabbis, members of the Roman Catholic clergy and medical professionals, CCS aided women seeking abortions or a frank discussion of their options. It was the CCS that drew Assembly member Constance E. Cook, in 1970, to write and push through a bill that decriminalized abortion in New York State and became a model for federal legislation.

The reading will take place Monday, May 13 at 7:00 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church of Ithaca, located at the corner of North Aurora and Buffalo streets. Admission is free and open to the public.

The reading will feature the voices of David Dietrich, Sylvia Grosvold, TCDC Chair Linda Hoffmann, Michael Hoffmann and myself. The play is directed by Sue Perlgut and produced by Joan Adler, with the aid of Nancy Miller. The event is sponsored by EAS: End Abortion Stigma; CNY NOW, and the First Unitarian Church.

A discussion led by retired Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Richard Gilbert will follow the reading. Rev.Gilbert will speak about his own involvement in CCS and answer questions.

This is an issue of national importance as women’s rights today are under attack. We must pay attention to what was achieved in 1970 and trust women and their medical professionals to act without legal entanglements that constrain or even prevent appropriate standards of care.

Posted in City of Ithaca, Tompkins County, Town of Caroline, Town of Danby, Town of Dryden, Town of Enfield, Town of Groton, Town of Ithaca, Town of Lansing, Town of Newfield, Town of Ulysses.