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National NOW Times >> Fall, 2001 >> Article

The Emergency Campaign for Women's Lives Continues with a National Day of Speakouts

by Stephanie Seguin, President, Campus NOW in Gainesville, FL

At the National NOW Conference in Philadelphia, a resolution was passed declaring a National Day of Speakouts in October as part of the Emergency Campaign for Women’s Lives. Speak-outs (or public consciousness-raising) are a way for us to make our private struggles public, and have been used as a radical tool in the Women‘s Liberation Movement and Civil Rights Movement. In the Civil Rights Movement, people would get up in large meetings and testify about racism in their daily lives to compare their problems and plan collective solutions.

Speakouts were also a powerful tool in winning gains for women. In 1969, a group of NY women (soon to be the Redstockings) disrupted a legislative hearing on abortion that was composed of a panel of “experts”– 14 men and a nun. These women’s liberationists insisted that women were the only experts on abortion and they demanded repeal of all abortion laws. After disrupting the hearing, they organized the first feminist speak out, where women spoke publicly about their illegal abortions. Their organizing set the stage for winning Roe v. Wade. Today we have less access to abortion than we did in 1973 due to the constant chipping away of our rights. The way we will “advance and defend Roe” and win more of what we need – paid parental leave, contraceptive coverage, and men to take more responsibility for birth control and child care – is to testify again at speakouts about our own experiences with waiting periods, high costs, guilt trips, parental consent, and lack of abortion clinics. With the un-elected Bush vowing to restrict abortion, we must use our power to make the changes we need.

To learn more about the 1969 legislative panel disruption, the first Speakout, how chapters are using this powerful tool today, and the Redstockings Archives for Action Project, read the full article on

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