Dr. Mildred Jefferson is one of the finest examples of the American Dream at work. From her upbringing in Pittsburg Texas to graduating as the first black woman from Harvard Medical School, and becoming the first woman employed as a general surgeon at Boston University Medical Center, she became an icon in the pro-life movement.
According to Americans United for Life’s Clarke Forsythe, who worked with Jefferson for years on the board of AUL, she “was an impassioned pro-life doctor and persevering advocate, who fought for the right to life for decades until her last days. With a beautiful voice, she combined passion with articulation on pro-life medicine, law and human rights. She courageously sacrificed her medical career in favor of advocating for the right to life when it was not popular.”
Jefferson was a pro-life pioneer, serving as president of the National Right to Life Committee, a founding member of the board and a past president of the Value of Life Committee of Massachusetts and was active in Black Americans for Life. She testified multiple times in front of Congress, such as in 1981, speaking against Roe v. Wade, saying it “gave [her] profession an almost unlimited license to kill.”
In 1982, Mildred Jefferson challenged Teddy Kennedy for the United States Senate, running on a platform of lifting up the poor from government control, saying “I want poor people to learn to use the Free Market system and thus take responsibility for their own lives.” Although she did not win, she left a lasting impact on politics and the state, showing how people from all backgrounds can rise to the occasion and be leaders in their respective communities.
Although her iconic perseverance will forever be engraved into the history books, her passion for life will live on for generations. A recent film by Hollywood producer Nick Loeb is set to feature Jefferson, who will be played by Stacey Dash, further praising her life-affirming work, and giving a larger audience to her timeless legacy.
This black history month, let us remember Dr. Mildred Jefferson, along with the countless other black Americans who have fought tirelessly for human rights in our country. Dr. Jefferson stood strong in her belief that all people, from all places, deserve the right to life. As she so eloquently put it, “I am not willing to stand aside and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged and the planned have the right to live.”
John Block is Manager of Digital Communications for Americans United for Life.