- - Monday, March 22, 2021

“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.”
— Dr. Mildred Jefferson

The April 1 world premiere of the film “Roe v. Wade” will feature the contributions of a pro-life pioneer with whom many younger people involved in the fight against abortion might not be familiar.

I am an executive director of the film and I’m thrilled to play the role of Guthrie Jefferson, the mother of Dr. Mildred Jefferson, who began battling for the lives of the unborn before the disastrous 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision on which the film is based. Dr. Jefferson continued that struggle until her death in 2010 at the age of 84.

She spoke out against abortion across the country for four decades, changing hearts and minds with her eloquence, her logic and her charisma. One lawmaker whose opinion on abortion was formed after hearing her message was Ronald Reagan, who went on to be one of the most pro-life presidents in U.S. history.

In a letter to Dr. Jefferson, then-California Gov. Reagan wrote to her in 1972, saying “No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching. … You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of human life. I’m grateful to you.”

Mildred Jefferson was born in 1926 in Pittsburg, Texas, where just five years earlier a Black teenager, Wylie McNeely, was burned at the stake in nearby Leesburg, accused of assaulting a young girl. She was raised in Carthage, Texas, whose White men fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. 

Racism had to be part of her experience growing up, and sexism, but she was able to blaze a trail despite her black skin and her gender. Dr. Jefferson was the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society.

She became involved in the pro-life movement after being asked to sign a petition that a Massachusetts chapter of the American Medical Association was distributing in 1970 in support of legalizing abortion. Dr. Jefferson was a founder of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, incorporated just four days after the Roe v. Wade decision, and a founder of the National Right to Life Committee, which she would serve as president and chairman of the board. 

Dr. Jefferson saw abortion as an injustice for all mankind, as I do. I have made it my mission to spread the message from Acts 17:26 that we are all one blood. God made all people. We are not separate races. Abortion is an injustice to all of us.

But Dr. Jefferson also recognized the toll abortion would take on the Black community, with abortion sellers like Planned Parenthood setting up shops in our midst to peddle their deadly procedure while selling the lie that abortion is liberating, empowering and a pathway out of poverty. 

“After 44 million abortions, most people have not noticed that the population descended from U.S. African slaves comprising around 12 percent of the population, make up about 35 percent of the abortion population,” Dr. Jefferson said. “This means that more Americans of African descent have died in the abortion chambers than have died in all the years of slavery and lynchings.”

Her work laid the groundwork for my own ministry, Civil Rights for the Unborn, which is part of the Priests for Life family of pro-life ministries. Dr. Jefferson’s recognition of the devastation abortion was bringing to Black families also prompted many Black leaders, including myself, to form the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, which brings together pro-life and pro-family organizations across the country to work for the common cause of ending abortion and saving our community.

I hope everyone who sees “Roe v. Wade” will keep an open mind and see the truth of this tragic decision that has torn our nation apart for the sake of convenience and the false god of choice. 

“Abortion on demand is not merely ‘the right to choose,’” Dr. Jefferson said in 1978. “The demand is ‘the right to choose’ to kill an unborn child and pay some doctor to do it. In a sound society, there are choices which we must agree not to make and not to allow.”

• Alveda King is an American activist, author and former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives. She is a niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and daughter of civil rights activist A.D. King and his wife, Naomi Barber King.

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