Heather Booth knows that being on the frontline of change means doing behind-the-scenes work. Many of us fought for reproductive rights in our first act. On the anniversary of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Heather reflects on what it took to get here and what continues to be at stake.

A Women’s Liberation march around 1970. Heather is at the bottom in white, pushing a stroller (courtesy Heather Booth).

If we organize, we can change this world. We have to put this into action to protect our freedom and to save lives, a call to action in the face of the June 24 one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

For 50 years Roe protected the most intimate decision of a person’s life—when or whether or with whom we have a child.  

20 states have banned abortions completely or have such restrictive laws that it is inaccessible for most who need it, and to those who need it most.  

Yet, 59% of all people who have an abortion are mothers. They know exactly what it takes to raise a child.  

I started an underground abortion service in 1965, eight years before Roe became the law of the land. I started this as a good deed for a friend who was nearly suicidal and not prepared to have a child. Word spread and more people asked for the same kind of help. Bear in mind that at this time, three people merely discussing the provision of an abortion constituted a conspiracy to commit a felony. So, we named the service JANE. We would publicize it with notices saying, “Pregnant? don’t want to be? Call Jane.” I recruited others to be part of the service. Within a few years, the women in the service learned how to perform the procedures. By the time Roe became the law of the land, the women of JANE themselves had performed 11,000 abortions.

This transformative grassroots organizing experience remains foundational to my work across issues as an activist and political strategist.

Left: Heather arrested at a 2018 Capitol Hill protest by Dreamers and Jewish activists in support of DACA and immigrant rights (courtesy Heather Booth). Right: Heather on a 1964 picket line in Shaw, Mississippi, in support of voter registration. Soon after this photo was taken, she was arrested for the first time. (Wallace I. Roberts, courtesy of the Roberts Family)


Now is always the time to organize. Recruit others, spread the word, raise the funds, show up and drive our concern into the elections at all levels.

IF we organize, it is possible that we can win a national trifecta—a pro-reproductive freedom majority and advocates in the Presidency, the Senate and the House.

In the House there are 18 seats where Biden won and yet a MAGA supporting Republican now holds the seat—opposing reproductive freedom and action to address climate or freedom to vote and more. If we gain four more seats in the Congress we will have a pro-freedom majority. We can do this, if we organize.

Over 70% of the country supports Roe and believe that no politician should come between a woman and her physician on abortion. The same statistic is true for Americans who want to see action on climate change. These are powerful numbers and powerful issues, but we need to drive them into the elections.

Our rights have become partisan battlegrounds. There are more Democrats than there are Republicans in the country––we just need to ensure they register and vote. And we need to engage those who are part of the pro-reproductive freedom majority, but might have voted for a MAGA candidate. We need to both mobilize and persuade.

Yes, there are strong challenges. Nothing is guaranteed. Last year’s Supreme Court decision is evidence enough. But the way to win to expand our freedoms is to join with others, take action, and organize. That is what Third Act was set up to do. When we organize, we can change the world.

Heather Booth, Third Act Advisor, is one of the country’s leading strategists about progressive issue campaigns and driving issues in elections. She started organizing in the civil rights, anti-Vietnam war and women’s movements of the 1960s. Heather started JANE, an underground abortion service in 1965, before Roe. In 2000, she was the Director of the NAACP National Voter Fund, helping increase African American election turnout. She helped found the Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2005. She directed Progressive and Seniors Outreach for the Biden/Harris campaign. Heather was the founding Director and is now President of the Midwest Academy, training social change leaders and organizers. There is a film about her life in organizing, “Heather Booth: Changing the World.”