"Never Again" was the headline that ran with the story and image, which quickly became an iconic symbol of the pro-choice movement. After the passing of Roe v. Wade, the editors at Ms. thought the struggle was finally over."At that point, we naively believed that would be the end of the story, and that never again would women be lying on the floor in their own blood in a hotel room because of a botched abortion," says Suzanne Braun Levine, who served as Ms.'s first editor from its founding in 1972 to 1988. "That once the Supreme Court had made that ruling, safe abortions would be available to everyone, everywhere."On the other end of the phone, Levine laughs.Born on August 16, 1935, Gerri Twerdy grew up with ten brothers and four sisters in an old farmhouse in rural, South Coventry, Connecticut. In the 1995 documentary Leona's Sister Gerri, her family and friends recall memories of her: She climbed trees to avoid the chores she disliked, she and her best friend would sneak out of school to change out of their dress code-mandated dresses and into their jeans when playing hooky, and she always smelled like Juicy Fruit gum.
In the 1990s, Brandes-Gratz reconsidered the ethics of publishing it when Santoro's family members, upset over the image, contacted her. Santoro's sister Leona Gordon, who recognized the photo of the "anonymous" woman in Ms. as her sister, was upset about the publication of the nearly 10-year-old photo. Gerri's daughters, Joannie and Judy, were told—and up until the photo's publication in Ms., believed—that their mother had died in a car accident.
How dare they take my beautiful mom and put this in front of the public eye?
In the 1987 study "The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction," Rosalind Pollack Petchesky delves into how fetal imagery—a favorite of the anti-abortion movement—has historically presented the fetus as "primary and autonomous," treating the mother's body as a mere environment in which this new life can flourish. Therefore, these voyeuristic images have become the perfect propaganda to pass around clinics, courtrooms, and abortion centers.
"Taken up as a pro-choice symbol, an image of a dead woman has been, and will continue to be, read in relation to fetal images and the circulating discourses of fetal personhood these images work to mediate," Petchesky writes of the image of Santoro. "The complexity of issues facing political actors is reduced to dichotomized and morally loaded questions of life versus murder, women versus fetuses, and right versus wrong."Nina Berman, a documentary photographer and professor at the Columbia Journalism School, also touches on dichotomy between fetishist, "tissue- and fetus-centric" anti-abortion propaganda and woman-centric pro-choice imagery. Therefore, she understands why it was published in Ms., a magazine that had a specific political agenda, but she says she can't imagine it ever appearing in a popular magazine—in the 1970s or now.
This image that was the consequence of a backwards legal system that turned women not only into criminals, but often into corpses.
When Levine and Brandes-Gratz published the photo of the anonymous woman in 1973, they intended for it to serve as a relic of a time past—to graphically illustrate the progress made with Roe v. Wade. But as Levine and Brandes-Gratz speak of the image forty years later, the inflection in their voices does not mimic the celebratory tone of "Never Again.""One or two generations of young women don't know the genesis of this photograph," Brandes-Gratz says. "This image that was the consequence of a backwards legal system that turned women not only into criminals, but often into corpses. Who expected, who would've anticipated, how much backtracking would occur since."