This Day In History
On this day, September 15, 1910, George Michaels was born. Uhhh…who, you may ask?
…not even him…
…but George MichaelS. This guy:
Who the heck is that guy and why do we care that he was born 99 years ago? Because George M. Michaels was a New York State Assemblymen whose tie-breaking vote in April 1970 signaled the beginning of legalized abortion in the United States … and the end of his career.
In April 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, New York State drafted a bill that protected a woman’s right to choose, with no restrictions on abortion until the 24th week. When it became clear that the bill would not pass, Michaels stood up and gave a watershed speech, changing his vote from no to yes, therefore tipping the scales for the bill to pass.
In his speech he noted “One of my sons just called me a whore for the vote I cast against this” and that another son had insisted that “Dad, for God’s sake, don’t let your vote be the vote that defeats this bill.” He stated that his constituents were going to “condemn me for what I am about to do” and continued “I realize, Mr. Speaker, that I am terminating my political career, but I cannot in good conscience sit here and allow my vote to be the one that defeats this bill … [and asked] that my vote be changed from a “negative” to an “affirmative.””
The bill passed in New York, becoming the first state to legalize abortion, which became nationally legalized three years later. Yet his prediction was right; his career was ended and he did not serve another term. George Michaels died in 1992. His decision to stand up for what he believed despite his conservative constituents was political suicide, but it was a watershed moment in reproductive rights in the United States; in later interviews he said he never regretted his decision.
So Happy Birthday to George Michaels, an unlikely feminist pioneer!