Mildred Fay Jefferson, MD (1926-2010) was a heroine extraordinaire to all of us who knew her, who listened to her powerful speeches, who read her inspiring pro-life quotes, and who recognized her passion for putting an end to the act of abortion once and for all.
Dr. Jefferson never spoke about the fact that her African American identity set her apart. Rather, she spoke about equal rights and human rights for all human beings, from the moment God created each of them until their death. She was one of the best examples I will probably ever know of someone who walked the walk each and every day of her life.
With the statement that she "became a physician in order to save lives, not to destroy them" she defined her purpose and her goal in life, for she believed that to be a physician is to uphold the Hippocratic tradition "infused with the Judao-Christian sanctity of life ethic." This drove her work, her words, and her hours of teaching by example that living a pro-life life requires absolute commitment to principle. According to Dr. Jefferson: "The fight for the right to life is not the cause of a special few, but the cause of every man, woman and child who cares not only about his or her own family, but the whole family of man."
President Ronald Reagan made it clear on many occasions that it was Dr. Jefferson's influential speaking on the truth about the preborn baby that convinced him to be pro-life. The writer who penned this fact also wrote : "One of the strongest pioneers for women's progress, Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson broke through a multitude of glass ceilings in her lifetime. A trailblazer in the medical field , she made incredible advances for both women and blacks. However, progressives edit or completely overlook her accomplishments during Black History Month because of her stand on abortion."
Jefferson's words influenced Walter Hoye, president and founder of the Issues4life Foundation, as well. In an article written after her death, Hoye quoted Dr. Jefferson: "U.S. Supreme Court Justices don't have to see the impact or consequences of their decisions but then without consulting us they want us to carry out these socially destructive missions and I SAY NO AND I AM NOT WILLING to give up the role of doctor as healer to become the new social executioner."
The National Right to Life Committee fondly remembered Dr. Jefferson with these words : "Dr. Jefferson's constant outreach to all pro-life people, regardless of background, was a hallmark of her activism. Writing as president in the 1977 NRLC convention journal, Jefferson noted:
'We come together from all parts of our land. . . . We come rich and poor, proud and plain, religious and agnostic, politically committed and independent. . . . 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.'"
Finally, I am reminded of the years (1976-1978) that I served as Dr. Jefferson's director of public relations at NRLC. The mainstream media at that time could not get enough of her. She had more interviews in that short period of time than anyone has had since. During one interview she gave to the New York Times , she is quoted on the subject of why pro-lifers are so committed: "Dedication - that's why we're so effective. . . . It's a simple matter that our people believe if they fail, other people will die. Today the unborn, tomorrow the elderly."
Is it any wonder that American Life League dedicated our Culture of Life Studies Program to her, knowing that she understood the fact that changing hearts and minds was the best and most effective way to build a culture of life?
I always found it ironic that the media defined Dr. Jefferson as a "feminist" when she used to tell us with a twinkle in her eye, "I am never going to step down to equality with men." Obviously she had a sense of humor and an enormous intellect, but most of all a heart that burned with love for the innocent - both born and preborn.
Let us always remember Mildred Faye Jefferson, MD as a woman totally committed to ending abortion. Let us never forget her tireless fight for preborn babies and their mothers. And may we find inspiration in her words to work toward the goal of saving babies every day and in every case.