Women's Health Movement

In 1973, the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion through the landmark case Roe v. Wade. This opened the door to women's health activists within the Women's Liberation Movement to organize and open feminist abortion clinics. These clinics opened in cities and towns around the country. In addition, these women explored activism in other areas of women's health: sterilization abuse, lesbian health care, feminist psychotherapy, birthing practices and midwifery, workplace health issues and access to new or alternative methods of contraception, to name a few. As a result, a number of regional and national grassroots organizations were established to work on identifying and changing abuses and inequities in health care delivery.

Some of these groups were:

  • Reproductive Rights National Network (R2NR2) - explored and drafted position papers on a variety of reproductive health issues.
  • Black Women's Health Project - focused on inequities in access to health care for African American women
  • CARASA - worked on education about and lobbying efforts to end non-consensual sterilization of poor women and women of color.
  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective - continues to identify and define issues in women's health in the groundbreaking book, Our Bodies, Ourselves.
  • Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers - remains a network of nationwide health centers that provide abortions and gyne care, based on a feminist model.

At the same time, woman-centered health centers focused on providing alternatives to the existing patriarchal model of gynecological care and offered access to care for underserved populations. Through education and teaching breast and cervical self-exam techniques (self-help), they encouraged women to become participants in and more demanding consumers of health care. CWHC was one of the first of these clinics and has continued to offer this model of care for over 40 years.

To read more about the women's health movement and topics in women's health, check out these books:

  • Our Bodies/ Ourselves for the New Century, Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1998.
  • A New View of a Woman's Body, Federation of Feminist Women's Health Centers, Feminist Health Press, Los Angeles, 1995.
  • Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum, Terri Kapsalis, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 1997.
  • The Women's Health Movement: Feminist Alternatives to Medical Control, Susan Ruzek. Praeger, New York, 1978.
  • The Black Women's Health Book; Speaking for Ourselves, Evelyn C. White, ed, Seal Press, Seattle, 1994.