[OASIS] Harvard University Library
OASIS: Online Archival Search Information System
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:RAD.SCHL:sch00916View HOLLIS Record   Frames Version
Questions or Comments   Copyright Statement
MC 289

Society for Humane Abortion. Records, 1962-1979 (inclusive), 1963-1975 (bulk): A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


The papers were processed under grant number 79-4 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Radcliffe College
August 1979

© 1979 Radcliffe College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 289
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: The Society for Humane Abortion, 1965-1975. The Association to Repeal Abortion Laws, 1966-1973
Title: Records, 1962 (1963-1975) 1979
Quantity: 8 1/2 file boxes, 6 audiotapes, part of reel of microfilm (M-100) 1 oversize folder
Abstract: Correspondence, articles of incorporation, bylaws, publications, etc., of Society for Humane Abortion, which supported the repeal of all abortion laws.

Processing Information:

Processed: August 1979
By: Zephorene L. Stickney

Acquisition Information:

Accession numbers: 76-98, 76-124, 76-184 76-248, 76-260, 76-314, 76-360, 76-362, 76-380, 76-416, 77-M206, 78-M13
The records of the Society for Humane Abortion/Association to Repeal Abortion Laws were given to the Schlesinger Library in 1976, December 1977, and February 1978 by Patricia Maginnis and Lana Phelan.

Preferred citation for publication:

Society for Humane Abortion Records, 1962-1979 (inclusive), 1963-1975 (bulk); item description, dates. MC 289, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Patricia Theresa Maginnis, the founder and president of the Society for Humane Abortion, began her "elective abortion" activities in 1961 while attending San Jose State College. In 1962 she founded the Citizens Committee for Humane Abortion Laws (CCHAL) and spoke in panel discussions and committee hearings. In 1963, CCHAL conducted the first of a series of public opinion polls. That same year PM moved to San Francisco, taking her organization with her. Once established there, CCHAL actively opposed the Bielenson Bill, or "Humane Abortion Act," which became California law in 1963. After meeting PM in 1963, Rowena Gurner helped organize her efforts; in 1964 they changed CCHAL's name to the Society for Humane Abortion (SHA).
SHA was incorporated in California as a non-profit educational organization in 1965. Its members endorsed "elective abortion," believing that every woman seeking an abortion is entitled to proper medical care without harassment; SHA supported the repeal, rather than the reform, of all abortion laws. The Society sought to educate the public by sponsoring symposia on abortion procedures for physicians; providing speakers and literature to libraries, medical schools, physicians, family planning agencies, and individuals; and publishing a quarterly newsletter. In 1968 and 1968, SHA maintained a free Post-Abortion Care Center (PACC), which was sponsored by the American Humanist Association. SHA disbanded in 1975, two years after the Supreme Court voided California'a 1963 "Humane Abortion Act."
In order to safeguard SHA's tax-free educational status, PM set up a parallel organization, the Association to Repeal Abortion Laws (ARAL), in 1966 to carry on underground activities: making referrals to abortion specialists; preparing and disseminating printed material about specialists and about self-induced abortion; and holding classes on abortion-related laws, Mexican abortion specialists, and self-induced abortion techniques. For a small donation, pregnant women received a kit prepared by ARAL containing annotated lists of abortion specialists in Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico, and other countries, instructions for going through customs, an evaluation form to be returned to ARAL after completion of the abortion, summaries of laws, and directions for self-induced abortion. The evaluations were used to update the list, and many specialists were visited by a member of ARAL before they were listed.


The present collection is all the record that remains of some thirteen years of work by PM and SHA/ARAL. Since the organization always remained small and highly centralized, and since it operated from PM's house, few office files survive. As far as possible, ARAL material has been separated from SHA records. The collection begins with SHA's organizational papers: articles of incorporation, by-laws, publications, and the like. SHA's extant office files have been arranged in alphabetical order. Almost no financial material survives. Clippings about PM, SHA, and ARAL are at the end of the collection; unrelated clippings and pamphlets were removed from the collection and filed in the Schlesinger Library's subject files.
The bulk of the collection was generated by PM's ARAL activities. There is some material from her abortion classes, but most of the papers concern abortion specialists; these papers include several versions of the specialist kit and correspondence between ARAL and either other referral agencies or individual specialists.
One half of the entire SHA/ARAL collection consists of requests for information about abortion specialists from or on behalf of pregnant women and evaluations of the abortion experience, which are useful for their candid and personal views on the subject of abortion. Because of the sensitive nature of these papers, names, street addresses and telephone numbers have been removed. The specialists and their assistants have each been given a number; the same number is used wherever a name appears: on kits, lists, correspondence, and evaluations. All requests and evaluations have been filed separately in chronological order to give a clearer indication of the number of people who contacted ARAL in a given period. In a visit to the Schlesinger Library in April of 1979, PM said that space limitations had forced her to discard even more requests and evaluations than she was able to keep. This collection should therefore be considered a sample of the material generated by SHA/ARAL from 1965 to 1975.
Audiotapes of a 1964 panel discussion on abortion, a speech given by PM in 1965, and the 1966 Conference on Abortion and Human Rights are shelved as T-37.
For further information about PM and SHA/ARAL, see the oral interview with PM conducted by Dr. Jeannette Cheek for the Schlesinger-Rockefeller Oral History Project in November 1975.



Additional catalog entries

Association to Repeal Abortion Laws (ARAL), 1966-1973
Baird, William
Bielenson, Anthony C.
Citizens Committee for Humane Abortion Laws (CCHAL), 1961-1964
Gurner, Rowena
Henrie, William Jennings Bryan
Maginnis, Patricia Theresa
Phelan, Lana
Abortion--New York
Abortion--Personal narratives
Abortion--Religious aspects Cartoons
United States--States