Before Roe vs. Wade, a clandestine network guided thousands of Americans to safe abortions in the 1960s and ’70s. In their piece for The San Francisco Chronicle, Jason Fagone and Alexandria Bordas tell the story of Patricia Maginnis, the creator of “the List,” and the well-organized, underground health care system she and San Francisco women created.
“ARE YOU PREGNANT?” one of the leaflets read. “IS YOURS A WANTED PREGNANCY? IF NOT, WHY NOT SEE AN ABORTIONIST.” It went on to give the names and contact information of 10 abortion providers in Mexico, one in Japan and a clinic in Sweden.
It was the first draft of the List.
Maginnis actually hoped the act of circulating it would get her arrested. California law at the time forbade “soliciting” an abortion or “providing and supplying” the means for procuring one — felonies punishable by up to five years in prison. She wanted to challenge the law in court, which could only happen if she were first handcuffed and charged. But no police intervened that day, likely fearing the very publicity she was trying to spur: Maginnis was fast becoming one of the most influential abortion-rights activists in America.