Tuesday, January 29, 2013

In 1976, the Portuguese journalist and activist Maria Antonia Palla produced and aired a documentary on Portuguese television titled “Abortion: The Crime Is in the Law.” It documented an illegal abortion clinic and advocated for decriminalization of the procedure. She was jailed for “moral offenses” and “incitation to crime.” Her trial did not occur until 1979. During the three years between her arrest and trial, Portuguese activists rallied to support both Palla and other women who were being tried for having illegal abortions and work toward legalizing the procedure. The historian Ana Maria Prata Amaral Pereira stated that Palla’s and others’ trials “helped the ‘abortion issue’ gain some political momentum in the Portuguese media, and with that, women’s organizations were able to present their interpretive meanings of these events and instrumentally use these trials to shape their injustice frames.” In 1979, Shere Hite received the postcard below, in which Palla thanked her for her support.

 Postcard to Shere Hite from Maria Antonia Palla, 1979Postcard to Shere Hite from Maria Antonia Palla, 1979

Greater offers of support for activists like Palla and other women and women’s groups came from organizations like the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, which, in 1977, sent representatives to 10 European countries to help create foreign language versions and translations of Our Bodies, Ourselves, which, in the collective’s own words, was meant “to increase consciousness about ourselves as women, to build our movement, [and] to begin to struggle collectively for adequate health care.” It, of course, included information regarding women’s reproductive issues.

Translation of a letter (from the original Spanish) to Judy Norsigian, founding member of the Boston Women's Health Book Collective, 1980

By 1979 the collective had published Nuestros Cuerpos, Nuestras Vidas in the United States, a Spanish-language version of Our Bodies, Ourselves. The book was adapted for publication in Spain in 1982 and has since been published in 25 different languages. The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective has been instrumental in supporting its partners in this grassroots global project, which seeks to advance the health and rights of women and girls. The story of this enterprise is thus a communal one on a global scale: it allowed women worldwide to negotiate their cultural and social divisions while building diverse accounts of a women’s health movement in different places and at different points in time.

Cover of the Italian version of "Our Bodies, Our Selves"Cover of the Italian version of "Our Bodies, Our Selves"