“To do no harm” meant any life in Jefferson’s world. Simply stated Jefferson said, “I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”
She did not have a popular message which may be why she is rarely mentioned during Black History month. The pro-choice/abortion movement has deafened many ears in the black community, for according to the Center for Disease Control, “more African-American babies are aborted than any other race in the United States.”
The 2018 Charlotte Lozier Institute reports, “In Arkansas, abortion has a disproportionate impact on African American women. CLI estimates that the abortion rate among black women in Arkansas in 2018 was 12.2 abortions per 1,000 black women of childbearing age – almost 3.7 times the white rate of 3.3 abortions per 1,000 white women of childbearing age.”
“Black women are more than five times as likely as white women to have an abortion,” according to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.
One national leader did hear what Jefferson had to say and changed his stance on abortion. In a letter to Dr. Jefferson, Ronald Reagan wrote, “No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching. I wish I could have heard your views before our (state – California where he was governor) legislation passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.”
From those early days of following the local doctor on his rounds in the city, Jefferson determined to become “a physician in order to save lives, not to destroy them. I will not accept the proposition that the doctor should relinquish the role of healer to become the new social executioner,” she said in a 1978 interview.
The American Medical Association’s decision to support liberalization of the abortion laws triggered Jefferson’s plunge into the pro-life movement. She signed a petition opposing that decision. An eloquent, outspoken person, Jefferson went on to establish and support various pro-life movements. In 1970, she helped found the Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Her influence spread. She served three terms as president of the National Right to Life Committee, wrote columns for their publication, testified for the prosecution against an abortionist, helped establish a political action committee to elect pro-life candidates and served on more than 30 pro-life boards.
Jefferson died in 2010 and is buried in Carthage, Texas, but the impact of this petite surgeon in the years following Roe v. Wade remains.