This is the entry I wrote January 27, 2004 for the acclaimed, Feminists Who Changed America, 1963 - 1975
Evelyn Lorraine Rothman (1932 – 2007 ) A founding pioneer of the Self-Help Movement, Rothman has dedicated her life working for women’s rights of self-determination and control of their bodies. She joined NOW in 1969 and served as vice-President of Orange County, CA, NOW, 1970 – 1971. She was a founding member of Self-Help Clinic One, April 7, 1971. In the Fall of 1971, she and Carol Downer traveled throughout the U.S. for 6 weeks, invited to speak by NOW chapters, university women’s groups, high school classes, church groups and women’s gatherings in private homes. As the concepts of self-examination and menstrual extraction spread rapidly through the feminist movement, it became apparent that in teaching women to safely remove the contents of their uterus it could include an early developing embryo. Thus, an advanced Self-Help Clinic group of women would be able to make abortions a home healthcare procedure, not necessarily a medical procedure.
In 1972, she applied for and received a U.S. Patent for the Menstrual Extraction kit, the Del’Em. In addition that year, she co-founded the first Feminist Women’s Health Center in Los Angeles, CA. Women were taught cervical and vaginal self exams and how to perform their own pregnancy tests. Also they set up a patient advocacy program with local hospitals, persuading hospital administrators and doctors to provide simple outpatient suction abortions, on demand, without requiring hospital board’s approval or medical necessity clause.
Concurrently, she co-founded the second Feminist Women’s Health Center in Santa Ana, CA, setting up the same Self-Help Clinics and advocacy programs. Following Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe Vs Wade, both Feminist Women’s Health Centers (Los Angeles and Santa Ana, CA) opened licensed out-patient well-women clinics providing a full range of well-women health care services including abortions. Their Self-Help Clinic model emphasized client participatory involvement in all educational and decision-making aspects of health care and health care delivery. Rothman was an administrator and director of these non-profit, non-governmental, licensed health care facilities. From 1973 to 1974, feminist health activists from all around the U.S. were introduced to Self-Help Clinic patient participatory and educational concepts.
Women came to their Summer Institutes and were able to return home and open their own feminist women’s health centers – among them: Atlanta, Tallahassee, Chico (CA), Oakland (CA), Cambridge (MA) and San Diego (CA). Rothman presented papers on her work, represented the Feminist Women’s Health Centers at American Public Health Association meetings and at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. In 1975, working with a writing team, she produced information regarding the Self-Help Clinic Concept health education which became the books; A New View of A Woman’s Body, How To Stay Out of the Gynecologist’s Office, Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth. Her writing also includes, Menopause Myths and Facts, What Every Woman Should Know About Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Continuing on through 1986, Rothman worked in administration at the Feminist Women’s Health Centers in L.A. and Santa Ana, and with the umbrella organization of the FWHCs; The Federation of Feminist Women’s Health Centers, which included over a dozen sites. In 1999, Menopause Myths and Facts was published and she joined the Feminist Women’s Health Centers’ Web site acting as a consultant and Self-Help Clinic advocate