Gloria Steinem’s 'My Life On The Road' Dedication Adds Beautifully To The Conversation On Abortion
As if she didn't already move us enough, Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road dedication thanks her abortion doctor for helping her live her best life. Although Dr. John Sharpe didn’t perform the procedure himself, he was the doctor who referred Steinem for an abortion, despite not having a reason to do so that fit with the laws of the time. Thanks to his actions, Steinem has been able to lead the fantastic career that she has. (Not that women can’t lead badass lives with a child, of course — but they can’t lead badass lives if they don't feel entitled to their own decisions.)
The conversation around abortions is especially important at the moment, what with the never-ending crusades to defund Planned Parenthood. With the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, women are aiming to de-stigmatize abortion by speaking out openly and honestly about their personal stories. Removing the culture of shame that currently surrounds abortions can help women feel able to make this choice for themselves, if it’s right for them.
Gloria Steinem has spoken up about her abortion before, explaining that she always thought she was supposed to feel guilty about it — but never could. She told The Guardian that she knew that the perception of abortion was negative, and yet for her, “it was the first time [she] had taken responsibility for [her] own life.” She had her abortion in 1957, long before they were legal for any reason other than the woman’s health, and so her doctor risked his career to give Steinem agency over her own life — because he knew it was the right thing to do.
Her full dedication to Dr. Sharpe reads:
Dr. John Sharpe of London, who in 1957, a decade before physicians in England could legally perform an abortion for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a twenty-two-year-old American on her way to India.
Knowing that she had broken an engagement at home to seek an unknown fate, he said, “You must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.”
Dear Dr. Sharpe, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death: I’ve done the best I could with my life.
This book is for you.
Err, everyone else is sobbing right? Gloria Steinem’s dedication captures everything that’s so powerful and important about organizations like Planned Parenthood — as well as everything that’s misleading about the terms “pro-life” versus “pro-choice” being positioned either side of the abortion debate. What Steinem's dedication makes clear is that in allowing her to make her own decision about having an abortion, Dr. Sharpe gave her both: the right to a choice, and the right to her own life.