Former Washington Post Reporter to Speak at UMass Amherst on Abortion Debate

AMHERST, Mass. - Veteran Washington Post reporter Cynthia Gorney will speak at the University of Massachusetts, Feb. 11, at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The author of "Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars" (Simon & Schuster), Gorney will discuss the personal histories behind the current abortion debate. The event is sponsored by the UMass journalism department as part of its Art of Nonfiction lecture series.

Published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on a woman’s right to choose, Gorney’s book draws on more than 500 interviews and previously unseen archival material to tell the story of the divisive abortion wars from the perspective of the people – doctors, lawyers, legislators, priests, teachers, housewives, and many others – who fought the battles on both sides of the issue.

Gorney focuses her narrative on a legal battle in Missouri in the late 1980s, which mirrored the deepening abortion conflict around the U.S. The central characters are two passionate, strong-willed leaders from opposing camps in the city of St. Louis: Judith Widdicombe, a registered nurse who ran the so-called abortion underground during the illegal days of the 1960s and went on to set up Reproductive Health Services, the first legal abortion clinic in Missouri; and Samuel Lee, a young pacifist and aspiring Franciscan seminarian who found himself increasingly drawn to the right-to-life movement. The two eventually confronted one another in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989 when Webster v. Reproductive Health Services challenged the earlier landmark pro-choice decision of Roe v. Wade.

An award-winning reporter for the Washington Post from 1975-91, Gorney was also the South American bureau chief for the paper from 1980-82. She now lives and writes in Oakland, Calif.

"Cynthia Gorney is a literary journalist who proves that complicated issues can be understood best through the lives of the characters who shaped them," says Norman Sims, chair of the journalism department. "We are looking forward to hearing her describe not just the conflict, but the process of writing about both sides of the issue in a fair and dramatic fashion."