Our Bodies, Ourselves, Our Stories

Written by:

Emilie C. Ailts, Executive Director
NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado
1905 Sherman St. #800
Denver, CO  80203



“In 1969, as the women’s movement was gaining momentum and influence in the Boston area and elsewhere around the country, twelve women met during a women’s liberation conference.  In a workshop on ‘women and their bodies,’ they talked about their own experiences with doctors and shared their knowledge about their bodies.  Eventually they decided to form the Doctor’s Group, the forerunner to the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, to research and discuss what they were learning about themselves, their bodies, health, and women.

The fruit of their discussions and research was a course booklet entitled Women and Their Bodies,..…published in 1970. The booklet, which put women’s health in a radically new political and social context, became an underground success. In 1973 Simon & Schuster published an expanded edition, renamed Our Bodies, Ourselves.” 

That paragraph is from the website of Our Bodies Ourselves (OBOS), also known as the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective (BWHBC), a not-for-profit, public interest women’s health education, advocacy, and consulting organization that piqued a nation’s curiosity in 1973 with the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves.  The book, some argue, is the seminal publication of the women’s reproductive health movement.  It is a book by and about women, in which we see all of our experiences, our worries, our fears, and our stories on paper and validated.  A publication that spoke to thoughts that otherwise wouldn’t have voice.   Each woman who got a copy learned from it and evolved with and because of it.  What does it mean today? 

For we advocates, then and now, for a full spectrum of choices in women’s reproductive health care, most of our stories go un-told.  Our stories are not shared because our communities have been convinced that our stories recount only bad decision-making.  They have convinced us that there is no righteous poignancy in our collective past, that there is no sorrow or reflection and no thoughtful belief system at work when we made and make choices over the decades.  Choices that we advocate are there in the decades to come. 

A few months ago as I had to deliver four minutes to those gathered at our Annual Auction, “Stand Up for Choice.”  I decided that I had been silent with my own experiences too long.  That I, switching careers after 30 years, was obliged to share those experiences that have come to form my own immutable belief system: that it is the right of every woman to have available a full spectrum of reproductive health care choices, including safe and legal abortion. 

I am pleased to say that my words elicited numerous e-mails, conversations on street corners, in ladies rooms, at lunches, comments in handwritten notes and by phone from women who clearly wanted to hear and tell stories; stories from women of all ages who desired to stop those who would marginalize their experiences and the private beliefs that arise from them.  They desired to stop those who tell them that their stories don’t reveal simple truths: that choices in reproductive health care saved their lives or the lives of mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts, roommates or friends. They wanted to share those stories now with an impressive immediacy.

 Let me share some of the remarks that led to this outpouring and let me, by sharing my story encourage you to share yours.

My Auction Four Minutes

We are in a historic moment in this country and in the State of Colorado.  We are witnessing a race for the Presidency between a candidate of African descent and an older American.  We, in Denver and Colorado, are about to host a convention for the nomination of one of those candidates.  Colorado is now described as a bellwether state or swing state; and Colorado stands a good chance of maintaining a pro-choice majority in our own legislature, again. 

With all of those possibilities, I ask myself, why?  Why are we still fighting for:

  • a full spectrum of reproductive health care choices?
  • equal pay and equal access to the workplace?
  • access to quality health care?
  • the power to make our own choices about what our families look like? and
  • to be safe – from those we love and those we meet?


Why did I change careers after 30 years and accept the role at NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado? The answer is in the fabric of my story, I survived:

  • molestation and abuse as a child
  • date rape as a young woman
  • physical abuse from a spouse
  • an unintended pregnancy with an abusive spouse, and since it was after Roe vs. Wade, I was able to choose to be a mother
  • divorce
  • single-parenthood
  • sexual harassment, and
  • I survive breast cancer

After reflecting on all I survived, I took my personal passion and chose to change my life. I wanted choices guaranteed for my daughter and the young women that are in my life and are part of the majority in this country.  I wanted to be a part of the fight to stop the fight.  I wanted to follow my passion for choice and gender equity to NARAL and tonight I chose to share my story. 


 “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today.  We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.  In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.  Procrastination is still the thief of time…..There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect.”   The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., 1967