PODCAST: Carol Downer revolutionized the women’s health movement, and refuses to quit, decades later

Born in 1933, in Oklahoma, Carol Downer is nothing less than a legend. She is not only a lawyer and an author, but she revolutionized the women’s health movement, learning how to perform abortions and vaginal self-examinations, and teaching other women how to, as well. In the early 70s, at a time when abortion, birth control, and fertility information was not widely available to women, Carol and some other women developed the practice of menstrual extraction, offering women a means to take control of their reproduction. She and her group, which incorporated as the Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC) post-Roe v Wade, and travelled around the United States, equipped with vaginal speculums, teaching women about their  bodies and reproductive systems. The FWHC also established the Women’s Abortion Referral Service, the first of its kind to offer pregnancy screening.

In 1981, Carol was the editor of A New View of a Woman’s Body, and an editor of a companion book, How to Stay Out of the Gynecologist’s Office. In 1984, she assisted in writing Woman-Centerd Pregnancy and Birth, in 1992, she wrote, A Woman’s Book of Choices with Rebecca Chalker. Carol is on the board of directors of the Feminist Women’s Health Centers/The Women’s Health Specialists of California and has served on the Board of Directors of the National Abortion Federation. She is currently working on her next book in which she advances the belief that women’s collective efforts to achieve their sexual and reproductive liberation is a fundamental strategy for social change.

I spoke with Carol shortly after meeting her in New Mexico in the fall, where she gave a talk about reproductive sovereignty.

PODCAST: Carol Downer revolutionized the women's health movement, and refuses to quit, decades later
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.