Speech of Linn Duvall Harwell

Document Date: April 25, 2004

Co-founder, Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the ACLU of Pennsylvania

March for Women’s Lives
Washington, DC

Seventy-five years ago, my mother, Clara Bell Duvall, died following an illegal abortion. Her tragic death left five children MOTHERLESS.

As she lay dying, she said to my 10-year-old sister, “You will be the mother now.” And to my grandmother, “Take care of my precious.” This was my 18-month-old sister. Mother died March 27, 1929, in Mercy Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA. The archives say death was from “miscarriage.” This was a lie. She died from a self-induced knitting needle abortion. She was 34 years old. As we children gathered around the polished casket that held her body for the three-day Irish wake, our father said, “We must stick together now.” This was not to be. We were taken to Baltimore, divided among relatives. In a few days, we lost our mother, our father, and each other. I do not remember crying tears, yet I have wept inside all my life.

Government assaults on reproductive rights must not stand. The well-being of America’s families depends on women’s health. Too many children in America were left MOTHERLESS before abortion became legal. We must not let my family’s tragedy be repeated.

I have devoted my life to ensuring that ALL women, especially poor women, may have the reproductive health care they need. My foundation, the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union works every day for this great purpose.

I, an American, have not sat silently witnessing a steady erosion of women’s reproductive rights. A strong voice moves the clouds. Thank you for adding your voice in this great March for Women’s Lives.

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