Barely News: RIP, Dr. Mildred Jefferson

October 18th, 2010 11:59 AM

Most readers are probably unaware that the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School who was also the first female surgical intern at Boston City Hospital passed away this weekend.

Though the wire service did file a brief local story, the Associated Press's national site has no coverage of Dr. Mildred Jefferson's death. 

I would suggest that the coverage is so quiet because Mildred Jefferson was also an important pro-life pioneer. 

Though marred by the fact that she consistently characterized Ms. Jefferson as "antiabortion" instead of as "prolife," the obituary by Kathleen Burge at the Boston Globe captured much of the essence of this marvelous woman (bolds are mine):

Pioneering Dr. Jefferson led, inspired abortion foes

Dr. Mildred Jefferson, the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and the first female surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, broke many race and gender barriers during her long career as a doctor. But it was when she turned to politics, emerging four decades ago as a eloquent leader of the antiabortion movement, that she began to win a following.


Dr. Jefferson died Friday at 84, according to Anne Fox, a close friend and the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. The exact cause of death is unclear, but Fox said Dr. Jefferson’s health had declined two weeks before her death.


“She was one of our founders and her philosophy profoundly affected the movement,’’ said Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. “She spoke to young, to old, to all religions, to all races, to all people.’’


St. Martin first met Dr. Jefferson in the early 1970s, and she remembers when she realized the surgeon was also a powerful political presence. At a women’s conference in St. Cloud, Minn., St. Martin was standing in an auditorium with hundreds of women. All of a sudden, she heard a crescendo of clapping and cheering. She looked across the cavernous room to see Dr. Jefferson stepping onto the floor.


Dr. Jefferson, a board member and former three-term president of the National Right to Life Committee, remained active in the movement until just a few weeks ago.


... Dr. Jefferson was small in stature — Fox believes she often wore hats so she would not disappear into a crowd — but she did not shrink from controversy. And she was not afraid to use blunt analogies to state her views. In a 2003 profile in the antiabortion magazine American Feminist, Dr. Jefferson said the antiabortion movement was “second only to the abolitionist movement’’ in the way it changed American thinking.


“I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and 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,’’ she told the magazine.


... “As the first woman surgical intern at Boston City Hospital, Dr. Jefferson was a trailblazer,’’ said a statement from Dr. Karen Antman, dean of Boston University School of Medicine and provost of Boston University Medical Campus. “We are grateful for her contributions to our faculty and to the field of medicine. Dr. Jefferson served as a mentor and a role model to many.’’


A profile of Dr. Jefferson in the 2004 book “African American Lives’’ suggested that she became politically active in 1970, after the American Medical Association passed a resolution stating that members could ethically perform abortions if the procedure was legal in their states.

The importance of Dr. Jefferson's involvement in the early stages of the pro-life movement cannot be understated.

Abortion advocates in the late 1960s and early 1970s believed that they could divide the country along racial and religious lines and gain long-term majority acceptance of feticide by characterizing abortion opponents as white, Catholic, and out of touch with the rest of America. That became an impossible case to make with the indomitable Dr. Jefferson in charge of things during the right-to-life movement's early years and the active involvement of many other Judeo-Christian faiths.

That the death of an objectively important pioneering African-American female doctor is going relatively unnoticed shouldn't surprise anyone who understands how consistently and militantly pro-abort the establishment press is.

RIP, Mildred Jefferson.