Pro-Life Leader Dr. Mildred Jefferson, Former Right to Life President, Passes Away
by Steven Ertelt
October 18, 2010
Boston, MA (LifeNews.com) — Dr. Mildred Jefferson was known throughout pro-life circles for her tender spirit and encouraging the next generation of pro-life leaders to take up the mantle of the pro-life cause. Her ever-present-smile will be missed, as Jefferson passed away over the weekend, dying at her home peacefully on Friday night.
Jefferson is known as one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee and was elected as vice-chairman of the board in June 1973. She subsequently served as chairman of the board and, from 1975-1978, served three consecutive terms as NRLC president.
That all came after a distinction few pro-life advocates know: Jefferson is the first black woman to graduate from Harvard medical school.
She also was the first woman to be a surgical intern at Boston City Hospital and the first woman admitted to membership in the Boston Surgical Society. Jefferson was the recipient of honorary degrees from twenty-eight colleges and universities.
"The right-to-life movement has lost a champion and a pioneer. And we have lost a dear friend," said Darla St. Martin, the co-director of the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeNews.com. "Mildred Jefferson was a valued colleague in our fight for the most vulnerable members of our society and she will be greatly missed."
"Mildred Jefferson used every forum available to educate America and encourage people of all ages to become active in the right-to-life movement," St. Martin added. "Her legacy will be the countless people — most especially young people — that she brought to the movement by her constant presence and tireless dedication to the cause of life."
St. Martin called Jefferson a "committed political activist and recipient of numerous accolades and honors" who "devoted her talents and her life to the right-to-life movement,’" adding that her "constant outreach to all pro-life people, regardless of background, was a hallmark of her activism."
Jefferson, as president of the national pro-life group, wrote in 1977, "The right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law."
"I became a physician in order to help save lives," she said. "I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the 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."
LifeNews.com received an outpouring of accolades and comments from people paying their respects to Jefferson.
"Mildred Jefferson was a constant inspiration to me," said Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life. "In recent years, I especially enjoyed talking with her about the history of the movement and the strategies for the future. She always spoke about the movement with a fresh enthusiasm, vision, and readiness to carry out the work."
Moreover, her passing should remind us of our duty to reflect on and record the history of our movement, and pass it on to the younger generations of pro-life activists," he said.
Dr. Michael New, a political science professor at the University of Alabama, put Jefferson’s work into context.
"Pro-life activists today owe a great deal of gratitude to those who launched the modern pro-life movement back in the 1970s. During that decade, the abortion issue caused many people to get involved in politics for the very first time," he said. "However, even though there was plenty of enthusiasm and ambition, the pro-life movement often lacked financial backing and political experience."
"The pro-life movement has not always done a great job chronicling its own history, so many do not realize the difficult and painstaking work that Mildred Jefferson and others did in building institutions that continue to serve pro-lifers well to this day," he said.
After her Harvard Medical School graduation, Dr. Jefferson served as a general surgeon with the former Boston University Medical Center and Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at Boston University Medical School.
The pro-life group Massachusetts Citizens for Life is organizing a memorial service at Harvard sometime later in the month for pro-life advocates to attend.
Related web sites:
NRLC – https://www.nrlc.org
MCFL – https://masscitizensforlife.org
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