Title: 20 years later - pioneering clinic still stands firm for abortion rights
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081158/00001
 Material Information
Title: 20 years later - pioneering clinic still stands firm for abortion rights
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Stacy, Mitch
Publisher: Gainesville Sun
Publication Date: 1994
Subject: Feminism -- Florida -- Gainesville   ( lcsh )
Feminists -- Florida -- Gainesville   ( lcsh )
Women -- Social conditions -- Florida -- Gainesville   ( lcsh )
Women -- History -- Florida -- Gainesville   ( lcsh )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081158
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

Sunday, July 17,1994



Cronkite reflects on moon walk 3D

NBC may merge newsmagazines 70

Section D




Barbie sparks


As executive
director of the
Bureau of Con-
sumer Alarm, I
am always on the
alert for news sto-
ries that involve
two key elements:
1. Fire.
2. Barbie.
So I was very
interested when
alert reader
Michael Robinson sent me a column
titled "Ask Jack Sunn" from the Dec.
13, 1993, issue of the Jackson, Miss.,
Clarion-Ledger. Here's an excerpt
from a consumer's letter to this col-
umn, which I am not making up:
"Last year, my two daughters
received presents of two Rollerblade
Barbie dolls by Mattel. On March 8,
my 8-year-old daughter was playing
beauty shop with her 4-year-old
brother. After spraying him with
hair spray, the children began to
play with the boot to Rollerblade
Barbie. My little girl innocently ran
the skate across her brother's bot-
tom, which immediately ignited his
clo hes."
She letter adds, "There are no
warnings concerning fire on these
toys I feel the need to warn
potential buyers of their danger."
In his response, Jack Sunn says,

To ensure high
standards of
scientific accuracy, I
conducted the
experiment in my

cryptically, "Mattel does not manu-
facture Rollerblade Barbie any
He does not address the critical
question that the consumer's letter
raised in my mind, as I'm sure it did
yours, namely: Huh?
I realized that the only way to
answer this question was to conduct
a scientific experiment. As you may
recall, last year, in response to a
news item concerning a kitchen fire
in Ohio, I did an experiment proving
that if you put a Kellogg's straw-
berry Pop-Tart in a toaster and hold
the toaster lever down for five min-
utes and 50 seconds, the Pop-Tart
will turn into a snack pastry blow-
torch, shooting flames up to 30
inches high. Also your toaster will
be ruined.
The problem was that I did not
have a Rollerblade Barbie. My son
happens to be a boy, and we never
went through the Barbie phase. We
went through The Masters of the
Universe phase. For two years our
household was the scene of a fierce,
unceasing battle between armies of
good and evil action figures. They
were everywhere. You'd open up the
salad crisper, and there would be He-
Man and Skeletor, striking each
other with carrots.
o at the end of a recent col-
umn, I printed a note appeal-
ing for a Rollerblade Barbie. I
got two immediately one from
Renee Simmons of Clinton, Iowa,
and one from Randy Langhenry of
Gainesville, Ga., who said it
belonged to his 6-year-old daughter,
Greta. ("It would help me if you
could get Barbie back to north Geor-
gia before Greta notices she's gone,"
Randy wrote.)
Rollerbade Barbie is basically sa
standard Barbie, which is to say she
represents the feminine beauty ideal
if your concept of a beautiful female
is one who is 6 feet, 9 inches tall and
weighs 52 pounds (37 of which are
in the bust area) and has a rigidly
perky smile and eyeballs the size of
beer coasters and a one-molecule
nose and enough hair to clog the
Lincoln Tunnel.
But what makes this Barbie special
is that she's wearing two little yellow
rollerblade booties, each of which has
a.*heel similar to the kind found in
cigarette lighters, so that when you
roll Barbie along her booties shoot

out sparks. This seems like an alarm-
ing thing for rollerblades to do, but
Barbie, staring perkily ahead, does
not seem to notice.
To ensure high standards of sci-
entific accuracy, I conducted the
experiment in my driveway. Aside
from Rollerblade Barbie, my materi-
al consisted of several brands of
ee BARRY on Page 5D

Pioneering clinic

still stands firm

for abortion rights

Sun staff wrter
In 1965, when Margaret Parrish was a student at the
University of Florida, her roommate took a trip to
New York without saying why.
What the young woman was after, Parrish learned
later, was an illegal abortion. She was told she could get
one somewhere in New York City. So she bought a train
When her friend got back to Gainesville two days lat-
er, Parrish went to the station in Waldo
to meet her.
"I had to go into the train to find her,"
Parrish recalls. "And she was sitting in a
seat, and she had blood dripping off the
seat down to the floor. And I had to liter-
ally pick her up and get her off the train.
"She had hemorrhaged all the way
from New York, and said the abortionist
had raped her after the abortion."
The young woman survived, thanks to
a compassionate physician who treated
her at home and kept quiet about what
he'd seen. But the incident opened
Parrish's eyes.
"She wouldn't let me take her to the
emergency room because she would have
been arrested," says Parrish. "She was,
as she basically, at the age of 19, making a
Y. choice that she was going to die rather
than be jeopardized by jail."
That incident helped make an activist out of Parrish.
In 1967, she got involved with New York-based Clergy
Consultation Services, working in Gainesville to help
local women secure safe abortions, sometimes in Europe
and Puerto Rico.
As one of the leaders of the local feminist movement
of the early '70s, she helped open the first abortion clinic
in Gainesville after the U.S. Supreme Court made the
procedure legal in all 50 states with the 1973 Roe vs.
Wade decision.
See CLINIC on Page 5D

Margaret Parrish, center,
one of the founders of the
Gainesville Women's Health
Center, joined current direc-
tor Patricia Lassiter, left. and
former director Donna Bur-
nell at the clinic's 20th anni-
versary celebrationJuly 9.


Byllye Avery
appears today


Judy Ley, far left in
photo above, and Byllye
Avery, thirdfrom right,
were two of the
founders of the Gaines-
ville Women's Health
Center in 1974. It was
the first abortion clinic
in town after the Roe vs.
Wade Supreme Court
decision. The seated
woman is Flo Kennedy,
a lawyer who helpedget
abortion legalized in
New York in 1970.

StEr-N-J MI uIun I ulT aIne u Eirnlle Sun
After starting out on SE 4th Avenue across the street from Alachua Gen-
eral Hospital, the Gainesville Women's Health Center moved to its present
location on NW 23rd Avenue in 1986.

mmU ._ TRAVEL m

"The Breakers," home of Cornelius Vanderbilt and his family, is-hbe largest of the
oceanfront mansions in Newport and a popular tourist attraction.


Elegance thrives in historic resort

Special to he Sun
n Newport, R.I., there is a sophistication
found in few other American cities of its
size. While highly regarded as a summer
resort, Newport thrives year-round on its
natural beauty and historic architecture.
Founded in 1639, the City-by-the-Sea has
expertly restored and maintained many of
the jewels of its past, from simple colonial
houses in the heart of the city to the famous
"cottages." elaborate turn-of-the-century
mansions along the ocean.
Also generally considered the yachting
capital of the world, Newport has a rich nau-
tical history. Since losing sailing's most pres-
tigious trophy, the America's Cup, to Austra-
lia in 1983, the city has opened up to other
maritime interests.
Among the boats that ply its waters are
the magnificent 120-foot J-class sailing yacht
Shamrock V, new and vintage&otor yachts,

and a charter fleet of 12-meter sailboats, the
68-foot sloops that once competed for the
America's Cup.
In Newport, you can swim off expansive
beaches or play tennis on grass courts. There
are also places to listen and learn. The sum-
mer calendar is marked by concerts that
bring in world-renowned musicians, from
classical to jazz. The city also has impressive
museums, some with Revolutionary War arti-
To be sure, the traffic on summer week-
ends is heavy and a patchwork of T-shirt
shops has sprouted along Newport's narrow
streets. But a look beyond the boutiques to
the art, history and good eating reveals
aspects of a city that still fills its residents
with pride.
Events in the coming weeks
Surrounded by water on three sides, New-
port has made use of its unusual geography
See TRAVEL on Page 10b

I '

,: >*
t ..; -


The Gainesville Sun, Sunday, July 17, 1994 5D


continued from Page ID
When it opened in May 1974, the
Gainesville Women's Health Center
was the third abortion clinic in Florida
and 12th to open outside New York,
where abortion had been legal by
state statute since 1970. The clinic for-
mally celebrated its 20th anniversary
this month.'
The facility, which now also pro-
vides gynecological, birth-control,
mental health and educational ser-
vices, grew out of the burgeoning
women's movement in Gainesville as
much it did the need for a local abor-
tion provider, Parrish says. It was a
clinic for women, run by women.
Its founders, Parrish, Byllye Avery
and Judy Levy, worked together in the
Children's Mental Health Unit at
Shands Hospital. They also were close
friends and active in local causes, es-
pecially the feminist movement.
"It was an interesting kind of time,"
recalls Avery, who would later move
to Atlanta and gain national recogni-
tion as the founder of the National
Black Women's Health Project. "Be-
cause it was a time when there was a
need for abortion services among
women, and it was also the whole
crest of the women's movement and
the women's health movement, so it
was a rather questioning, exciting
kind of time."
The political climate in 1974 was
still tinged with unrest over civil rights
and the war in Vietnam. Watergate
was unfolding, giving young people an-


continued from Page ID
hair sprayland this was a painful
sacrifice a set of my veteran under-
wear (estimated year of purchase:
I spread the underwear on the
driveway, then sprayed it with hair
spray, then made Rollerblade Barbie
skate across it, sparking her booties. I
found that if you use the right brand of
hair spray I got excellent results
with Rave Rollerblade Barbie does
indeed cause the underwear to burst
dramatically into flame.
(While I was doing this, a neighbor
walked up, and I just want to say that if
you think it's easy to explain why
you're squatting in your driveway, in
front of a set of burning underwear,
surrounded by hair spray bottles, hold-
ing a Barbie doll in your hand, then

other reason to question authority and
look at their government with disdain.
The feminist movement was hot.
And Gainesville at the time was as
progressive as any place in America
when it came to women's rights, says
Parrish, who with Levy orchestrated a
march on the UF Blue Key banquet in
1972 to protest the exclusion of
"We were involved in the civil
rights movement, we were involved in
the peace movement, we were in-
volved in all kinds of social conscience
activities," says Parrish. "And the logi-
cal step after the civil rights
movement and freedom for minorities
in this country was freedom for
They recognized that one area
where women were often discounted
was medical services, of which wom-
en also happened to be the major
consumers. Physicians, predominate-
ly male at the time, weren't required
to tell their patients everything about
their diagnosis and treatment. Babies
were being born with the doctor in
charge and the mother as a bit player.
"Our whole philosophy came from
one that women should make up their
own minds about what to do with their
own bodies," Parrish says.

The early days
From the time the New York legis-
lature declared abortion legal in that
state in 1970 until Roe vs. Wade in Jan-
uary 1973, two large New York City
clinics accommodated women from
all over the country seeking abortions.
Soon after the procedure was made
legal nationwide, a clinic was opened

imagine that whichever toy designer
dreamed up this exciting concept has
been transferred to Mattel's coveted
Bosnia plant. But what should be done
about all the Rollerblade Barbies that
are already in circulation?
I believe that the only solution is for
all concerned consumers to demand
that,our congresshumans pass a feder-
al law requiring that all underwear,
snack pastries and other household
objects carry a prominent label stat-
But that is not enough. We also need
to appropriate millions of dollars for a
massive federal effort to undo the
damage that has been done so far. I'm
talking about scraping this crud off my
Also, the taxpayers owe Greta a
new Barbie.

in Jacksonville.
'Levy and Parrish had visited the
busy New York clinics in 1971, and
began to talk about how they would do
things if given the chance to open
their own facility in Gainesville.
"We began talking at that point
about what we would do differently
and how to educate and how to demys-
tify medicine," says Parrish.
At Levy's kitchen table, the three
women mapped out a plan for the clin-
ic and sought the help of the medical
personnel who'd been instrumental in
establishing the Jacksonville facility.
They borrowed a couple thousand dol-
lars each from the campus credit
union, and got a local physician to co-
sign another bank loan. Avery used
her Sears credit card to buy the denim
furniture for the waiting room.
They rented a building on SW 4th
Avenue across from Alachua General
Hospital, and within eight weeks the
clinic was open, with abortions being
performed by residents from Universi-
ty Hospital in Jacksonville. Shands
Hospital forbade its residents from
working at the clinic, although some
of them did come over to moonlight,
according to Parrish.
Gynecological services were added
within a year, and in October 1978 the
three women founded the Birth Cen-
ter, a place where couples could go to
give birth with the help of a midwife in
a non-clinical setting. The clinic
moved to its present location on NW
23rd Avenue in 1986 and continues to
function as a private, non-profit
It was no surprise to clinic founders
that their major opposition came from
the medical community, which had
expected them to ask permission of
the local obstetrics/gynecology prac-
titioners before opening.
"Among the medical establishment,
it was a very conservative time,"
Avery says. "They really were not sup-
portive of us or the clinic. They felt
there was no need in Gainesville.
"You've also got to understand, the
coming of abortion services took that
procedure out of the hospitals and put
it into a free-standing clinic setting,"
she says. "And that was new at that
time. ... So the medical community
doesn't want anybody to be taking
money away from them. It's about
economics, and protecting their eco-
nomic turf."
The medical community never real-
ly got used to the clinic, says Patricia
Lassiter, its current director. Anti-

abortion groups have been successful
in stigmatizing clinics to the point that
it is difficult to find doctors willing to
perform abortions.
"The change is that we're more ig-
nored by the medical community,"
says Lassiter. "They realize we're
competent, so they're not trying to put
us out of business or anything. ...
They aren't against us anymore, they
just wish we weren't here."

The protests begin
Although some mostly silent pro-
testers showed upi outside to picket
within the fiist few months after the
opening of the clinic, the anti-abortion
movement wouldn't pick up steam for
a few more years.
"They were not out there," says
Parrish. "They didn't need to be out
there. Abortion had been illegal, so
there was not a real Right to Life
movement at that time. It came in re-
sponse to the Roe v. Wade ruling, and.
even that didn't get really heavy until
the early '80s, and we had already
been open for years by then."
In the '80s, the protests would reach
a fever pitch, with demonstrators post-
ing themselves outside to try to
dissuade women from having abor-
tions and at one point chaining
themselves to the equipment inside.
Security measures would be tightened
here as clinics elsewhere would be
bombed and burned, and abortion doc-
tors targeted for harassment and
Lois Anne O'Malley, administrator
of Gainesville Right to Life, says an
organized anti-abortion group was in
place here before Roe vs. Wade. They
picketed when the clinics opened, she
says, but the focus was more on educa-
tion and lobbying than protest.
O'Malley says Gainesville Women's
Health Center, as well as the other two
abortion clinics in town, was opened to
capitalize on abortion as a newly le-
galized industry. She says the clinic's
recognition of its 20th anniversary is
"A celebration for the death of thou-
sands of unborn babies in Gainesville
is very sad, indeed," she says. "A more
fitting celebration would be a memori-
al, just as memorials for war
remember the dead and do not cele-


11:00 1:45 (4:45 @'2.50) 7:45 10:40

brate the killings."
Parrish and Avery claim retaliation
'for their opening the clinic came from
the establishment in the form of UF's
denial of tenure for Levy, who was a
child psychologist in the Children's
Mental Health Unit. Levy died of
breast cancer in 1986.
Parrish, 51, who was the business
manager in the Children's Mental
Health Unit in the UF Department of
Psychiatry at the time, later worked
at the North Florida Evaluation and
Treatment Center, operated her own
businesses in Gainesville, and helped
start the Sexual and Physical Abuse
Resource Center (SPARC) shelter in
She currently serves on the board of
Another Way, a transitional shelter
for battered women and children in
Chiefland. She ran unsuccessfully for
Gainesville City Commission last year.
She is a recipient of a Susan B. Antho-
ny Award from the Gainesville
Commission on the Status of Women.
Avery, a DeLand native who was a
special education teacher in the UF
child psychiatry department at the
time, later ran the federal Compre-
hensive Education Training
Administration (CETA) program at
Santa Fe Community College. The pro-
gram sought to train displaced
homemakers and others who needed
skills to enter the workforce.
She moved to Atlanta in 1981 to im-
plement her self-help program for
black women under the umbrella of
the National Women's Health Net-
work. In 1984, it became the National
Black Women's Health Project, a non-
profit organization that addresses

issues of physical and mental health
among black women through self-help
groups and programs.
Avery, 56, now is a nationally known
advocate for black women, having
earned a $310,000 MacArthur Founda-
tion "genius grant" in 1989 to continue
her work. She was a 1994 recipient of a
Gloria Steinem Women of Vision
"It was a wonderful place for me,"
Avery says of those days in Gaines-
ville. "It was a place where I actually
grew up politically, and it was a very
warm, wonderful enriching
Abortion-rights advocates say the
future is still uncertain.
"I think there's going to be a chip-
ping away (of Roe vs. Wade), partly in
terms of the health care reform de-
bate," predicts Parrish. "I think that's
going to be a lightning rod for the pos-
sible erosion of abortion rights."
Says Lassiter: "It's going to be a con-
stant fight for at least this generation
to make sure we get true access to
Avery says she's surprised and dis-
mayed that abortion rights is still such
a monumental issue.
"I thought we would come to a place
where people would really realize that
we live in a very complex world, and
there really aren't any simplistic an-
swers," she says. "And I didn't think
there would be people out there look-
ing for simple answers still. I, too,
would like all the problems that are
associated with why women make de-
cisions to have abortions eliminated,
but I don't see that happening any
time soon."



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