Slow Burn: Roe v. Wade

Season 7: Episode 3

Women vs. Connecticut

What it took to strike down one of the oldest abortion laws in the country.

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Episode Notes

Soon after Ann Hill arrived at Yale Law School in 1968, she realized she was pregnant. Her options were limited: she could give birth—or get an illegal abortion. The decision she faced inspired her to take on Connecticut’s abortion ban. The legal battle that followed would set the stage for Roe v. Wade.

Season 7 of Slow Burn is produced by Susan Matthews, Samira Tazari, Sophie Summergrad, and Sol Werthan.

Derek John is Sr. Supervising Producer of Narrative Podcasts.

The season’s reporting was supported by a grant from the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists.

Editorial direction by Josh Levin, Derek John, and Johanna Zorn. Merritt Jacob is our Technical Director.

Our theme music is composed by Alexis Cuadrado. Artwork by Derreck Johnson based on a photo provided by Robert Wheeler.

Sources for This Episode:

Books:

Garrow, David J. Liberty & Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade, Lisa Drew Books, 1994.

Gorney, Cynthia. Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars, Simon & Schuster, 1998.

Greenhouse, Linda and Reva B. Siegel. Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling, Kaplan Publishing, 2010.

Hull, N. E. H. and Peter Charles Hoffer, Roe v. Wade: The Abortion Rights Controversy in American History, University Press of Kansas, 2021.

Newman, Jon O. Benched: Abortion, Terrorists, Drones, Crooks, Supreme Court, Kennedy, Nixon, Demi Moore, and Other Tales from the Life of a Federal Judge, William S. Hein & Co., Inc., 2017.

Tolchin, Susan and Martin Tolchin. Clout: Womanpower and Politics, Coward, McCann, & Geoghegan, Inc., 1973.

Articles:

“Abortion Bill Hearing Opens,” Bridgeport Post, March 26, 1971.

“Abortion Laws Challenged by Women,” Naugatuck Daily News, Jan. 26, 1971.

Bazelon, Emily. “America Almost Took a Different Path Toward Abortion Rights,” New York Times Magazine, May 20, 2022.

“Capitol Demonstration: They Enjoy Being Just Girls,” Hartford Courant, April 5, 1972.

Carlson, Barbara. “Abortion Law Suit Hits Meskill’s Role,” Hartford Courant, May 27, 1972.

“Court Fight Looms on Abortion Law,” Associated Press, April 28, 1972.

Frank, Gillian. “​​The Surprising Role of Clergy in the Abortion Fight Before Roe v. Wade,” Time, May 2, 2017.

Greenhouse, Linda J. “Constitutional Question: Is There a Right to Abortion?,” New York Times Magazine, Jan. 25, 1970.

Heimlich, Barbara. “1,200 Women Involved in Suit Asking Court to End State’s Abortion Laws,” Bridgeport Post, June 13, 1971.

Kandell, Jonathan. “Meskill Accused on Abortion Role,” New York Times, May 27, 1972.

Kandell, Jonathan. “Tough Abortion Law in Connecticut Is Attributed to Meskill and Catholics,” New York Times, May 5, 1972.

Kantrowitz, Barbara. “20 Catholic Women Favoring Abortion Ready to Speak Out,” Hartford Courant, May 19, 1972.

Kantrowitz, Barbara. “Changing Abortion Laws Woman’s Full-Time Job,” Hartford Courant, Dec. 18, 1971.

Kantrowitz, Barbara. “Women Tell About Their Abortions,” Hartford Courant, Nov. 5, 1971.

Kesselman, Amy. “Women’s liberation in Action, ‘Women vs. Connecticut,’” Conference at Boston University, March 27-29, 2014.

McFadden, Robert D. “President Supports Repeal Of State Law on Abortion,” New York Times, May 7, 1972.

“Meskill pledges abortion fight,” Associated Press, Oct. 21, 1972.

Morse, Charles F. J. “Committee Backs Stiff Abortion Bill; Debate to Open in House,” Hartford Courant, May 20, 1972.

Morse, Charles F. J. “State’s Abortion Law Plea Turned Down; Meskill to Call Special Session,” Hartford Courant, May 13, 1972.

Nadle, Marlene. “The Abortionist on the Circuit of Fear,” the Village Voice, Aug. 18, 1966.

“New Abortion Law Faces Court Test by State Foes; ‘Tough’ Bill Is Signed by Meskill,” Associated Press, May 24, 1972.

“Old Abortion Law Is Back in Effect,” Associated Press,  May 10, 1972.

Prager, Joshua. “​​Roe v. Wade Made Viability the Key to Abortion Law,” Wall Street Journal, Dec. 2, 2021.

Puckett-Pope, Lauren. “The True Story of Phyllis Schlafly, the Ironic Anti-Feminist,” Harper’s Bazaar, April 14, 2020.

Shoenhaus, Alan E. “Abortion Law Backers and Foes Press Fight Over New Legislation at Capitol,” Bridgeport Post, May 19, 1972.

“State to Appeal Ruling on Anti-Abortion Laws,” Hartford Courant, April 22, 1972.

“Top Court Lets Abort Ban Stand,” Associated Press, Oct. 17, 1972.

Tuohy, Lynne. “Roe vs. Wade: Before and After,” Hartford Courant, Jan. 18, 1998.

“U.S. high court getting state’s anti-abortion law,” Associated Press, Sept. 21, 1972.

Williams, Thomas D. “Decision on Abortion Reversed,” Hartford Courant, July 1, 1972.

Williams, Thomas D. “Court Strikes Down State Abortion Law,” Hartford Courant, April 19, 1972.

Winters, Stephen J. “Committee Favors New Abortion Law Backed by Meskill,” Bridgeport Telegram, May 20, 1972.

“Women Challenge Abortion Laws Today,” Naugatuck Daily News, Feb. 19, 1971.

“Women jam Conn. abortion law hearing,” Associated Press, May 19, 1972.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

How Abortion Access in Your State Will Change Immediately if Roe Is Overturned

And what pro-choice people can do to help.

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About the Show

In the early 1970s, the future of abortion in America was far from settled. Some states were pushing to liberalize their laws. In others, women could be prosecuted for terminating a pregnancy. Unexpected and dramatic battles raged across the country, shaping the landscape of abortion—even before Roe v. Wade was decided.

For the seventh season of Slate’s Slow Burn, host Susan Matthews explores the path to Roe—a time when more Republicans than Democrats supported abortion rights. You’ll hear the forgotten story of the first woman ever to be convicted of manslaughter for having an abortion, the unlikely Catholic power couple who helped ignite the pro-life movement, and a rookie Supreme Court justice who got assigned the opinion of a lifetime.

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