« Slow Burn

S7 Ep. 2: Life or Death


Jack and Barbara Willke got their start on the Catholic speaking circuit talking about the pleasure of sex within marriage. Their daughter would convince them to shift their focus to another hot-button issue. The Willkes’ Handbook on Abortion, and the photographs they distributed along with it, would help kickstart the right-to-life movement.

To see the cover of the Handbook on Abortion, some of the photos the Willkes used, and the brochure “Life or Death,” go to slate.com/handbook

Season 7 of Slow Burn is produced by Susan Matthews, Samira Tazari, Sophie Summergrad, and Sol Werthan.

Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.

Editorial direction by Josh Levin, Derek John and Johanna Zorn. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.

Our theme music is composed by Alexis Cuadrado. Artwork by Derreck Johnson based on a photo provided by Robert Wheeler.

The season’s reporting was supported by a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This episode includes descriptions of graphic images in the fall of nineteen? Seventy marie wilkie looked like most of her classmates at no dames women's college. It was their age of many skirts and I remember we kept shortening them and shortening them, and I he had long straight hair. Of course everybody did Marie at the most of being away from home it a blast being a college up there. I went to parties constantly, but she so took her studies seriously. There were lots of lectures, lots of interesting speakers came into notre dame and you could go in here about all sorts of things. One of the things heard about was feminism by this of is junior year in nineteen. Seventy women were protesting across the country.
Thanks to the work, liberation movement, abortion was being talked about openly in all kinds of places, including in marine storm. You stay up half the night. Often about what do you believe and why do you believe and whose ride and country Of your own body that if you got pregnant and in on. Well, it wasn't can interfere with your life for your career or year plans. You just have the abortion he wasn't sure if she was on board with any of that, because it seems so focus on me. Me me my rights. My time, my exercise, What I want- and I thought I
just not sure that's how I wanna live my life when Marie left for winner break she didn't know where she stood wanted to talk about all of it with her family back in Cincinnati ohio. It was christmas of my junior year and came home. Everything was decorated, begin if a big christmas dinner and stockings hung- and it was all the traditions more, his mother and father were catholic, just like she was, and in their community They were pretty well known, you might no, the investors, sex educators. I give you doctor and mrs jack and barbara jack jacking. Barbara have made a name for themselves with their series of books and lectures. As we go along and our talk you'll hear is mentioned our children, I'm re entry. If they are sixteen and forty
Charlie and Joe are wrecking. Crew, are eighty seven and is five and Timothy is one and a half in his room. We're going to give you some ideas on sex education of children, and so they Then I'm writing. This book actually called the wonder of sex It was how beautiful said says within marriage when it's used for the love between the spouses. In to generate children rather than just in Casual one nice day on the kind of things you know sex, something like electricity, unharnessed and out of control, its an atomic bomb or its lightning, and it destroys and yet channeled within the rules and put to proper use. It heats and worms our homes over the years, Marie's parents but share their theory, a good sex haste.
was and churches, jack was a doktor tall and professorial, and he wore nice suits. Barbara was a trained nurse, tiny and whisky, and she always I emphasized her role as a caregiver. Together they were folksy and playful and we strongly suggest that you let the children see you kiss and embrace and let your delight show through because they shouldn't see this for the first time in a parked automobile even say, maybe sit down on the couch and pitch a little blue in front of the children's around don't get to bash run out. They can't get defining whether that is one of the little one than between you trying to get their share dog. You ve been sufferings us You didn't just talk to other families about sex. They spoke to their own kids about it too. and I remember, There'D- be a song on the radio and they would say, will marry what? What are you of what she's sang about. Do you think, if she
goes down that road. That she's gonna end up happy here. What's her life, gonna look in twenty years and had it Nature Marie feel about your parents. Talking about sex, like that, I didn't think they very cool ipod. They kids at college worm. were much cooler than my parents and new a lot more. You, though, the Wilkie his book, the wonder of sex, was available in print and as a final record, the sleeve for the album version is decorated. With a Wilkie family portrait jack is the only one standing he's wearing oppressed white shirt. And about high barbara has their youngest on her lap with marie and the rest of her sisters and brothers sitting around the fireplace on her visit home in nineteen. Seventy marie
a bunch of long talks with her parents. She told them what she'd been hearing about feminism and about abortion I said you know, they're saying in my class as that Abortion is a woman's right. You can't force her to carry this child and you know she has a right to control, her own body, we don't make men, do anything like this. Why should women pay the penalty and my parents, I think, we're just horrified while the wilkie spoke frankly about sex, they had very traditional views about its place in the world and like many catholics, they thought life started at conception that made abortion a sin and we buddy heads all during christmas break and I would bring up an argument and they would shoot down. Marie's parents had have been trained in medicine. As an english major, she fell. Outmatched they were
I quote, is a human life. Look at the chromosome count. Can you refute that, and I couldn't and what, if she's a blue eyed blonde and the boy maybe he's a little red headed boy with freckles? Is that part of her body? Of course not it's a completely separate person and I thought well as a pre, strong arguments and then I say you know, what what about the poor rape, victims and dad would just look at me and say so, so we're gonna make the child pay the penalty for the crime of the father. Does that sound fair and I would think well know that doesn't sound, fair eve eventually Marie gave in her parents had worn her down and one her over an eye said. How do you guys know all this shit,
I want to share her new perspective with her college classmates, but there wasn't much out there that express this point of view, so she went to her parents with a vague idea. I said why don't you right a little book, because nobody knows these answers that you know at least nobody. I'm talkin to Marie was right about that early nineteenth seventys the case against abortion. Had not been well articulated, but that was before jack and Barbara Wilkie tat little book that marine suggested her parents right. It would change everything for their family and for the pro life movement, this is slow, burn, I'm your host Susan matthews in the late nineteenth sixteenth opposition to abortion looked very different than it does today. Right to life group
we're smaller and more scattered and mostly centred around the catholic church and since the proceeds with still banned in most places. There wasn't much to fight against, but the sixty is turned to the seven years. The groups working to make up ocean, safe and legal were gaining traction. Gallup poll released It shows that two out of three americans interviewed believe the question of abortion should be settled between the woman and her doctor. Breathing seem to be trending in one direction. Until a couple of catholic sex educators took on the fight themselves, what further wilkins into action provided so many people find them so convincing and how did their tactics revolutionized how we all talk about abortion and we one human life to solve the problem of another
This is the core of the whole abortion story. This is the third to life or death. Support for this had cast comes from wise, the smart way to move money, international and wisest world's most international account making it easy to move money around the world prizes. One account for over fifty currencies with wise. You can send. And or receive money internationally. All in one account wise is the cheapest and easiest way to move money internationally in over fifty currencies. Wise business is the only business account you need to go.
Well, it has everything you need to grow and operate your multi currency business without the high fees and headache of a local bank joined thirteen million people and businesses who are already saving and try wise for free at ys dot com, slash slow burn. When Marie Wilkie went back to school after the holidays. She took her parents arguments about abortion with her irene We have been more debates and the dorm, because now I had some answers. Finally, that I hadn't had before and not everybody reed with me in the winter of night, in seventy one. She kept asking her parents to write the book she'd suggested about why abortion was wrong, and I said you could just to release
simple question answers or somethin like that, just to get somethin down on paper. You know that people could read Marie. Wasn't the only person trying to get her parents to take on abortion, a catholic priest had been hoping to convince them to add this subject: their sex education lex, yours, but the Wilkie has resisted in their memoir jack Wilkie. Remember telling that priest. If we start talking about abortion, it will swallow us so when Marie bugged, her parents, they told her, they were too busy to write anything marie knew her father had just got in a new gadget and morocco dictation machine. I said why don't you just dictate some chapters and send me, then the little tapes and all type a mental censure back the type pages, It was one argument that Marie one they would send me. these well tapes, and I would claim, with head
parents on and listen. I would type amid sending back first chapters skin the frantic society question mark on Tuesday november nineteen, seventy a newborn bay, b was found in a cardboard box behind a supermarket in our city, apparently that before Marie this was particularly hard work. She could type one hundred words permanent state laws say abortion is legal off until the baby is viable Does this mean most people define viable is capable of independent existence. Weep leave. This is an extremely inaccurate word and should be stricken from the law books, jack and barbara sent enough. To fill a little more than a hundred pages. They called the slim volume, the handbook on abortions, by the spring of nineteen, seventy one it was ready to publish
There was only one thing missing: a photo for the cover dad got me up at the crack of dawn on a saturday when I was home, I was price spring break or get up at seven atlases. Seventy add I kick it up as set yes, yes, we have joined us seven. That morning her father dragged her to his office. There was a photographer waiting, I'm sitting there, I'm in a sweater and many skirt, I'm holding a clean acts like I've been crying I'm looking at my dad you can. In the back of his head and he's holding his stethoscope. Then I'm supposed to sit there and look worry like I'm the girl who needs the abortion it s. So I thought I look like death warmed over. Which was dad's plan, and I say dad you I use that. No, no! It's perfect! You look like you're in distress. How did you feel about that like to be- however, recognise you just from the cover they do
and I was mortified, because I thought was an awful picture. The Wilkie's self published five thousand copies of the handbook on abortion. The cover price was zero dollars, and ninety five cents and it's sold out immediately and then they two more and more in it. Just it chest, export did it just want like wildfire, jack and Barbara Wilkie, had gotten some regional attention when they lectured about sex, but now they were getting invitations from all over many of them from their fellow catholics. Wilkie spoke at a pro life meeting and rally in toronto, and they both travelled the way to hawaii where they saw thousands of copies,
of their new handbook? Lots of catholics favoured liberalizing abortion laws, but those who opposed to abortion for adamant in their beliefs and they were desperate to stop the changes sweeping through the nation for jack and barbara. There was nothing complicated about oppose abortion ask yourselves is this little being that grows within the mother human. I dont know the mother whose ever given birth to a chicken in the book in their lectures, the wilkie is convey an air of absolute moral shortness. After all, once we allow killing of one class of humans to solve social problems, just think lecture me: donation run will then be all the old people was in germany, minority races, troublesome political groups who,
always. The act of somebody who puts their own interests their own selfish interests over the interests of that unborn child, that's the kind of language. That's in the handbook on abortion. Cynthia corny is the author of articles of faith, a frontline history of the abortion, worse women do it because their selfish, because they feel that career or their free time is more important than using a child for all the morality in the handbook on abortion. There's something conspicuously missing. Explicit references to religion, the wheel. Keys were motivated by the catholic belief that life begins at conception, but in the handbook they dont attribute their ideas to the church or the bible. Instead, they drawn their scientific authority. They cite doctors, medical groups and studies, men,
I have said that, wouldn't it be better to abort than to have an unwanted child, a battered child. As a matter of fact, scientific studies do not support the fact that the handbook is not really a work of science. This studies, the Wilkie reference, are often cherry, picked and misleading, and the doctors they quote are not representative of mainstream medical thinking in the handbook. The Wilkie is claim that women who get abortions might suffer higher rates of suicide. As a result, they also suggest that these women are probably more likely to miscarry or give birth prematurely in subsequent pregnancies. None of that is based on strong scientific evidence. There's one passage in the handbook that you might have heard
about in chapter six. The wealthiest refer to rape and incest as an emotional smoke screen in the abortion debate. They say that rape is basically irrelevant in any argument about reproductive rights, because it very rare early leads to pregnancy acclaim is totally untrue. In two thousand twelve, a congressmen named todd Aiken made national news for saying essentially the same thing for what I understood from doctors. That's really rare! If it's a legitimate rape, female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. Agents. Legitimate rape comment can be traced directly back to the well keys and the handbook, but that's only a small example of their influence, because jack and Barbara Wilkie didn't just change the abortion
with their words, they also did it with pictures. We'll be right back if you're listening to this show, then you're, probably a fan of unique and interesting stories. I want to tell you about pocket pocket. Is a website
app that finds the most interesting thought provoking and entertaining articles from trusted sources around the internet and puts them all in one place low on time. Pocket lets you save articles as well as anything else. You find online, like videos, recipes and shopping pages to your personal pocket for digging into later pocket will even read the stories you've saved allowed to you like a podcast. A back to back particles want to go deep on a topic. They also have some incredible period collections that are hands selected by pocket editors or in expert pocket partner. Like me, want to learn more about what we discussed in today's episode: gotta pocket dot com, ferociously and check out slow burn to see my collection of articles in the dig deep into everything we talked about. hey we'd like to tell you about another podcast, you might like fiasco, a new audible original fiasco. Is that
humanity style, podcast series. by Leon, nay fuck, the co creator and original host of slow burn. If you liked the class, sixty then Leon and his team made about watergate and the Clinton impeachment you'll love fiasco each season a fiasco goes deep, a huge importance story from american history and brings it back to life through original interviews with key players and witnesses. Fifty then is about the hiv crisis. The podcast. so examine how the epidemic fit into the reagan era. Backlash to the gay liberation movement. You can listen to all eight episodes of the newest using a fiasco exclusively on audible, just go to audible, dot, com, flash fiasco, pot or text. Go pod to five zero zero five zero zero to understand how photographs became the focus of the pro life movement. You need to know what happened in new york
in the late nineteenth sixties, reorganise family and next week begins debate on a bell to liberalize abortions. For years, reformers in new york legislature had been trying and failing to change the state abortion law. But then a politician from upstate new york took a bolder approach: the first repealed. Ah gets introduced in new york in nineteen, sixty nine journalist, cynthia corny again and- person who introduces it is a republican woman. Her name was constance cook, and it was an unusual that she was a republican at the time. Most republicans supported liberalization cook was I'm just for women in the entire chamber. She's hold her colleagues that they needed to acknowledge reality. Women were getting abortions all the time anyway. No matter what the law said, There are many who say that this bill is abortion on demand,
I submit that we have a abortion on demand in the state of new york. Right now, any woman They want an abortion, can get one and if she doesn't have the twenty five dollars she can aboard herself and regretfully this is happening more often than you or I like to admit cooks. Fancier was a manhattan democratic and she had the backing of the states. Most powerful leader republican governor nelson rockefeller That law not only removes all barriers, to abortion up to twenty four weeks, it also removes any state restrictions so that anybody out of state can come to new york, cooks, chief opposition,
Came from one specific group horse, the catholic conference is deeply opposed to it. They come out the testified against it. It's come to quite a head catholic lawmakers succeeded in stopping cook spill. In ten sixty nine, but in nineteen seventy she tried again this time it narrowly past the state senate. Its fate would be decided in the state assembly life for all women, this bill, so on humane and saw a christian they're they're down to the final vote and they do the vote couch and it's a tie that deadlock. Seventy four and seventy four The bill was going to fail and then somebody notices that one of the assembly people is sitting at his desk any starting to cry
bigger. George Michael's was a Democrat. He represented a catholic leaning district in the middle of the state, but he was jewish himself he had voted no during the initial roll call, but then he stood up and he started to speak. I fully appreciate that this is the termination of my political career. I'd watch use of getting elected are re elected stand for someone who says An agonising over this. My own children have been yelling at me and I cannot go home to a family saviour and tell them that I let this bill fail. George Michael has had three. And his daughter in law Sarah had been pleading with him to vote. Yes on liberalizing the abortion law, Michael's kept telling her it was in his fight, but then
Something happened that changed his mind. She gave birth to his first granddaughter michael's thought about how you would feel if sundays needed in abortion. Good courage and stay in here and be the That is why today's bill, that's when you went starts to cry and that's when all the photographers russian and take a picture of, unlike bent over weeping at his desk, there a request, you may get bigger by negative vote to germany understandable in the hall as people are shouting at an earlier there'd, been a woman up on the balcony. Watching this thing, yelling burner is you're all yours.
password, malaysians, more sweeping abortion, grins old ills. One one man's will make no difference. George Michael scandalously still refers to this episode. As the vote and Michael's was right. He never held elected office. Again. Michael's vote did more than just legalise abortion in one state. The lack of a residency requirement meant abortion was now affected legal for anyone who could afford to travel to new york before the nineteen. Seventy is some americans when abroad, to get legal abortions. Now The solution, so many women were looking for, could be found much closer to home hub, Those were now being inundated with tens of thousands of women. We see just an enormous spike in the abortion rates. Christa, how gomberg is a history professor at two lane university
She says that women travelling from out of state had to face all kinds of logistics. They, to raise the money they had to take time off of work? Any impediment had the com sequence of delaying. abortion and making it more expensive and and riskier by the time they got new york, they often so far along in their pregnancy, is that they had only one option left before where the late nineteenth seventies, women, who needed an abortion prior to twelve weeks of pregnancy. generally received either a Dnc or a vacuum aspiration abortion, avoiding are performed in the eight to twelve your gestation is quick and clinical, any relatively minor operation. Then there was this brief window in which
they're, just wasn't an agreed upon procedure or inadequate proceeded to help those women after sixteen weeks, the commonplace procedure that was done was sailing. Abortion in the larger in a different procedure, is required more like the mist, our normal birth, the asylum procedure, failing abortions could be brutal, both physically and emotionally. The process started with a doctor, injecting. failing solution into a woman's uterus. The solution poisoned the fetus ending the pregnancy, the woman would go into labor within twenty four to forty. Eight hours and nurses were left to deliver the content
In all the controversy over the issue of legalizing abortions, little or nothing was said about the effect it might have on the women. The nurses who work in the hospitals were legal abortions. Now are performed. Physicians like this seizure because they were generally not a part of it. They performed the mechanical, insertion of the saline but then had the liberty to leave. The fetus would emerge looking very red or even burned. People on the pro life side called them. Candy apple babies. the student nurse, explaining what she saw at a hospital in nineteen. Seventy one payment, pain involved and nobody really cared and then, when it was over, I walked out the door with a plastic bucket with his five and a half month old fetus in it
and you have to pay all the way up. The corridor and down at the other corridor right down is the delivery. and around the corner is sailing. Abortion are in turn any more in the. U s, they were phased out as other techniques and proved hospitals, also moved away from doing abortions and deliveries on the same. For that's one reason: we have separate abortion clinics now but when abortion was first legalised, there was little training and little planning the work often felt nurses and many ended up disillusioned. Some of them took pictures of what they saw. Those photos would get shared with people who found abortion, disturbing and immoral people who would do anything they could to stop at people like jack and Barbara Wilkie. Here is a picture of the result of a salt poisoning abortion at nineteen weeks after
injection of the poison assault. This baby, as others breathed in that poisonous fluid swallowed it and was burned by it. It takes a baby at least an hour to be killed by this poison assault method. when the handbook on abortion came out. Most people do. Even know what a foetus looked like ultra sounds: weren't routine, yet, and life magazine had only just published its groundbreaking series of pictures of fetuses in the womb that photo spread had nothing to do with abortion, but pro life activists felt it confirmed what they'd always believed to be, Those pictures, as far as the right to life campaigners are concerned. Further evidence that science proves it. They would say, look at this happen, you look. This is not call it a life in the early.
Teen seventys. The wealthiest figured out something else that images of aborted fetuses could be Jim does powerful, as ones in the womb. Early edition of the handbook on abortion included full color photographs of abortions performed at four different stages. Each one has a simple caption explaining the procedure by scraping bisection hysterectomy at twenty four weeks. Salt point At twenty weeks. More and more people who were opposed to abortion began, sending them more and more photographs and Nobody understood that if you wanted to get more well on board. You showed the pictures. These images became the centrepiece of the winkies presentations to right to life groups.
Here is what your feet look like when you were only ten weeks in your mother's womb, a demonstration of the fact that at ten weeks your body was perfectly formed right down to fingerprints That photo became so well known that it had its own name, tiny feet. It shows in adults fingers holding up to incredibly small appendages. Each foot is maybe a quarter of the size of one adult fingernail. Other images were much more graphic. A jumble of bloody tissue containing a few recognisable limbs here is a picture of the typical suction abortion. The so called safer
ocean at eight to ten weeks, take a look. This is what comes from the warm of a mother in that so called safe abortion. The most infamous thorough, is other plastic bag. That's opened at the top. There are four large fetuses piled on top of each other. Their visibly bloody. The Wilkie is called that image garbage bag. This is a result of one mornings work at a canadian teaching hospital. These did. Babies reached fetal ages of eighteen to twenty, for weeks before being killed by abortion, I thought the aborted baby ones were shocking. The winkies daughter murray you look at these fully form babies dead in a bucket and your heart as sayings, and you think these aren't blobs is she these are. These are babies, the wilkie is used images and language together
to ensure that their audiences would come to that conclusion. To that fetuses were babies and that was wasn't a medical procedure. It was murder. Dad said, if you start with the youngest boy be slides and show them. People may say: well, I'm not sure that looks like a baby, but if you start it's near full term and say does this look like a baby. Yes, and then you go back for weeks how bout this one well yeah! Then you go by for more and if you take them back down that road. Then they can see how well, yes, these all our baby, see it. So the pictures, I think, were critical. Most of the photos that reached the wealthiest came from disillusioned medical professionals, others that circulated within pro life groups had and
they are organised the ones I've seen almost certainly show real fetuses, even so crazy. How good work says they don't necessarily tell an accurate story about abortion. In some cases she says the people who took the photos made them look as jarring possible. They did things like manipulate photographs, manipulate fetal remains to make them look like they were all than they were said to make them look like they were later term fetuses rather than early term ones, but jack and Barbara Wilkie believed they were getting at a larger truth. The Wilkie is kept updating the handbook on abortion with new claims and new pictures. They also created a convention booth exhibit with photo displays for other pro life activists to take out on their own. They sold more than Four hundred of them- and they would include instructional advice on how to talk about the photographs, one of their sets of it.
directions said you let people know are upsetting. People can start to discern parts that they will read nice as human and that's what really will get them going. Cynthia corny remembers barbara telling her about a day that she spent at estate fair. She gone there to talk about the evils of abortion, but it wasn't going well nobody's coming. To see their both and finally a couple, the volunteers are the booths open the books to the abortion put photographs Barbara remembers it. Her to me was then we just got mobbed whenever I would talk to people to ask them what Them into this battle, almost invariably they would say it was the pictures. I took one look at those pictures and I was like- oh my god, can't believe we're doing this in the united states.
the anti abortion sponsors of this rally say. Their ranks or swelling by leaps and bounds, as the so called the majority of american women, become more aware of the immortality and the danger of recently relaxed abortion longs. They say they ultimate answer is a continuing educational campaign. The reverence for line by the end of nineteen, seventy one jack and barbara to become too biggest names in the pro life movement we went from sort of a normal family too. Lee crazy. It felt like because all The said they were traveling travelling travelling when marina pair swear away, they would ask her to take care of her younger siblings. The will he's also took in women who came to them for help. There were often pregnant girl staying with us too, because back in there
These days it was a huge embarrassment. If you got pregnant and you were married and some of them I've got, kicked out of their homes, so mom and dad would say well come on we got an extra bedroom. You come live with us, you know until they had their babies as the wilkie has gained a following also started getting blow back Marie saw that first hand when her parents came to her own college campuses to give it structure and I remember being little worried about them up there. You now, and they were, I don't worry, we'll be fine, we'll be fine, so it was like other college students who came to protest. Well in professors, some of them, a feminist and grass and professors you now yelling and screaming, and some people were I have sat with me very bitter about it. How could you be on that side?
Most americans worry on the Wilkie side, in fact, most of it chickens would never be on their side that didn't mean they were going to lose, we'll be right back. I I'm lindsey, graham, the host of wonders show american scandal. We bring to life some the biggest controversies in: u s. History, presidential lies corporate fraud, corruption and sports. In our new a series we look at a community that took on one of the largest chemical companies in the world. The fight began in the mid nineteen nineties, when serious plague, struck a cattle farm. The farms owner went looking for answers and teamed up an unlikely partner from the world of corporate law, but as the two dug deeper
They are covered a secret that threatened thousands of lives, follow american scandal. An apple pon casts amazon, music, the one area or wherever you listening now listen one week early and ad free by joining wondering plus. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the international women's media foundation, the global nonprofit that bonds and supports, Women in non binary journalists saw the value of our reporting and dove in early to make slow burn seventh season possible, The eye w enough has enabled this type of work then thirty years, and they can use your support to check them out at I, w m f dot, org or go. Follow them on social media to learn more. The repeal of new york's abortion le pushed the entire country in the direction of reproductive freedom, but the federal courts would still
have their say, and so at other states like michigan last night, we carried a programme on the abortion, as you paid for by subcommittee of the michigan abortion referendum committee. Tonight we are, devising a programme on the same subject, they'd verbal, the voice of the unborn, the push to liberalize the where she lives in michigan, started out slowly, just as it had in new york, albeit with proper in sixty seven it failed in committee. It was basically reintroduce end up. Sixty eight failed in it. sixty nine. It failed. Nineteen. Seventy He seventy one it failed rob car is the head of a pro life group in kalamazoo Michigan he's also a scholar who has studied the battle over the states. Abortion, cause. There's a large percentage of democrats who were pro life and I have to believe. Most of them were catholic. You off- for he had a lot of Republican
the legislators, advancing abortion reform in new york, a single elected official george Michael's had changed everything by voting to legalise abortion in michigan reform. Advocates would put the question front of a lot more people, they needed a collector by two hundred and twenty five thousand signatures, but they didn't get those signatures until march seventy two to play This referendum on a balance, which became known as proposed, will be to win. That four and fight pro life groups in Michigan would need to come up with a plan. Together, the provider movement was How do I say this organised, but they were not unified. You had about maybe at the most two dozen small
independent. Pro life groups scattered throughout the state. Those scattered independent groups decided to form a coalition. They called it the voice of the unborn short on funds. They made a decision early on. They would wait to campaign until right before election day. By that point, the groups pushing to legalize abortion had been airing ads for months. puzzle be- would allow abortion by a licensed physician if the period of gestation is not exceeded. Twenty weeks, clergy believe that abortion, like religion is a personal decision and that the state should prevent a woman from following the dictates of her conscience, these michigan forgery and many others ask you to join them in voting. Yes, on proposal be early pulling suggested that the legal information side with winning but the pro life side, they had a secret, I want to do some one right now to russia, Look I've seen a number of times, I'm sure you have seen it too, because I know
but one of these home, I'm happy to say it's the handle an abortion. He wrote it with his wife, we walk away, this programme, doktor j c wilkie back to working. Thank it bob in nineteen. Seventy, two jack and Barbara Wilkie, travelling around the country, fighting the realisation movement state by state we're still selling copies of the handbook on abortion, but the Wilkie is also some new material before color brochure, Why incendiary, I would say, called life or death. Life or death, made the same argument as the handbook on abortion, but with much less text and alive. more pictures and they were color photographs of mangled babies. Here, Your abortions and fetal body parts do was was pretty gory. It really was but it was impactful. Life or death was cheaper to print than a book and easier to give out.
the michigan pro life coalition ordered five hundred thousand copies of life or death. They destroy It is those brochures threw out the state. Twenty five thousand of them got passed out at a michigan state football game, and when the game is over, these voluntary scoured the stance to pick up discarded copies the vast majority of these people, took them home to read them or maybe they do they threw them out, but they didn't leave em in the stadium in michigan campaign was starting to bring people together. Expanding the pro coalition beyond the catholic church. Well, I'm a gas down report we'll be back the moral and spiritual applications. I thought this was a catholic, issue. That's what everybody than trying to tell us gee! That's a catholic issue: you're, not a catholic! Might you speaking out against ma? I think this is this is a child
to the christian church and the christian churches is bigger than the catholic church and therefore I am against it. The day before the michigan referendum boat, Jack Wilkie went on local tv to deliver a closing message, I'm pleased to be here some good person couple this afternoon flew down to Cincinnati, to bring me up. Thinking that I might have one last serious, terribly sincere attempt talk to some of you neighbours in Michigan, I'm from Cincinnati. We are voting on tomorrow in proposal. Be is a shaking importance.
what you are doing is declaring life or death for an entire class of humans. That night jack gave his whole presentation. He explained how quickly a foetus develops. He held up posters, eyes, photographs, including tiny feet and garbage bag, and he talked about the horrors of saline abortions. If you're going to vote on an abortion law in Michigan, the very least you must do is know what abortion is and what it looks like now. These are a little grim, but here they are. Do you want abortion in michigan, Jack Wilkie got his answer. Twenty four hours later voters said no, they did not want an abortion in Michigan. Sixty one percent voted against the referendum. If you believe the polls there was a they point swing. In the last few weeks of the campaign, Marie Wilkie remembers her parents rejoicing over their win
Michigan was one of the big stays where they thought it was gonna. Go through you now in force, was gonna, be legal and all that and then it didn't said. The momentum had somewhat shifted just a couple of later in january. Nineteen. Seventy three, the momentum would shift again Remember a landmark ruling the supreme court, the day legalised abortions, thus the address portion laws of forty six states for rendered unconstitutional. and I remember just d the lamb with the decision. You know a psycho, my guy, Now what and I member dad saying will take you days to mourn, we're gonna be sad a few days, but then we have to get to work
there's a tremendous amount of work to do now. The Wilkie he's got started right away. They helped bring together far flung programme, groups under one national right to life committee. They published another book how to teach the pro life story and they became fixtures at the march for life in Washington DC. That march was supposed to be a one time thing in nineteen, seventy four, but by the mid nineteen eightys it was a huge annual rally. I'm drunk we'll Gabriel. national right to life As opposition to abortion grew. The Wilkie is tried to walk a narrow line. They distance themselves from extremists who terrorized abortion clinics and murdered doctors, but they never stopped insist
in that their side had the moral high ground. They are the violent once they kill innocent bay he's a million and a half a year. What we're trying to do is stop the violence. We are people of peace, the wilkie is kept expanding their handbook and eventually renamed at abortion, questions and answers. It sold an estimated one point: five million copies. The latest additions are hundreds of pages long and Marie Wilkie is no law, or the cover marie went on to become a doctor. The fourth generation in her family, barber Wilkie, died in two thousand. Thirteen Jack Wilkie died two years after that, a lot of things have changed, since the wealthiest started mailing tapes to their daughter. but in so many ways the work they started fifty years ago, shit
the world, we live in now the graphic pictures on protest signs and highway billboards me incendiary rhetoric legalised child killings days are numbered, we will win and the fight to transform the supreme. It is by profound honour to be the first president in history to attend the large for life. Do you do you revisit this book? A lot like? How does it feel to to read it? Oh, my god, I haven't looked at it and years ahead to go into our den and try and find one, but it's interesting to think how started the whole movement and where it's gone and where it is today and I
she remembered dad saying once he said we will not live to see row overturned by you. kids well next time on slow burn, a yale law students experience with abortion, convinces heard a fight, connecticut law herself. I mean it was still amazing to see so many women in port and so many women telling their truth. the first time these- were secrets it we had shared, but now
retiring their truth on the record in a federal court. Well wariness produced by the narrative, sorry, southeast our grad saw were then and meet susan matthews, Derek John senor supervising producer of narrative pot tat editorial direction by Josh, levine, Derek John and johannes zorn merit Jacob. Our technical director, our theme, Zack was composed by alexis quadratic derek
The things that are covered are based on a photo provided by robert wheeler. We had research help from bridget dumber. Some of the audio you heard in our show comes from Cincinnati museum center library archive from the Cincinnati right to life collection, to see the cover of the handbook on abortion, some photos the Wilkie is used and the brochure of life or death go to sleep, dot, com, flash camera. supporting was supported by the international women's media foundations, howard g buffet fund for women journalists slobbering is the production of slate plus later bullshit program. You can sign up for a slate plus to hear a bonus episode every week. Fifty then we'll go behind the scenes and you'll get access to some exclusive interviews. Betel explore more about the history of abortion in america. In this week's bonus, episode, he'll hear about how opposition to abortion evolved in the years after a row
listen to that had over two slate dot com, flash clover and to sign up now and right now offering fifty percent off an annual membership only until june fifty we couldn't make slower and without the support of slate bus. So please convey becoming a member athlete dot, com, flash, slow burn and if you're, looking for breaking news analysis. Everything going on at the supreme court right now. You should subscribe to slates legal podcast Emma posted by dahlia lit with amicably as new episodes every saturday this month to tell you all about the major decisions being released. This scotus terms- and there are special episodes. Firstly plus members to special thanks to Josh Austro, laura bennet, rebecca onion, proceed. Cut energy battle in due time. Having chance, that's brown, rachel, strong chow, to benefit
and they ll carry katy rayford low in lieu and alisha montgomery slate sleeping of audio thanks for listening, we'll see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-21.