Pro-life leader Mildred Jefferson praised as tireless trailblazer

Share |
Increase font size Decrease font size

Rep. Chris Smith / Dr. Mildred Jefferson

Friends and admirers remembered Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, a pro-life advocate who was the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. She saw the pro-life cause as one of love, compassion and liberty.

She died at in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday at the age of 84.

"I became a physician in order to help save lives,” she once said in defense of the unborn. “I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the 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."

Jefferson was born in Pittsburg, Texas to public school teacher Guthrie (Roberts) Jefferson and Methodist minister Millard F. Jefferson. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, she served as a general surgeon with the former Boston University Medical Center and as an assistant clinical professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School.

She helped to establish the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and was its president three times, Massachusetts Citizens for Life reports. At the time of her death she also served as president of the Right to Life Crusade, director of the NRLC, and director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) issued a Monday statement remembering Jefferson as a “trailblazer” who was “always graceful” and an embodiment of compassion.

“From the earliest years of the right to life movement, she dedicated herself to the cause, always beautifully articulating the humanity of unborn children,” he commented, noting that she fought for the “first right,” the right to life.

“Poised and passionate, always focused and extremely devoted, she made history and inspired an entire generation of pro-life leaders. It was an honor to work alongside Dr. Jefferson on critical pro-life issues, and I know her legacy and memory will live on in the lives of the unborn children she helped save,” Rep. Smith concluded.

Darla St. Martin, NRLC co-executive director, also praised the woman as a “valued colleague.”

"The right-to-life movement has lost a champion and a pioneer. And we have lost a dear friend," she said.

Jefferson was often sought a as speaker at pro-life conventions, rallies and banquets. The NRLC cited her words at the 1977 NRLC convention journal:

“We come together from all parts of our land ...We come rich and poor, proud and plain, religious and agnostic, politically committed and independent ...The right-to-life cause is not the concern of only a special few but it should be the cause of all those who care about fairness and justice, love and compassion and liberty with law ...”

Jefferson was also active with the American Life League (ALL), the Americans United for Life (AUL) Legal Defense Fund and Black Americans for Life.

St. Martin said Jefferson’s legacy will be the “countless people” she brought to the pro-life movement through her “tireless” dedication.

Share |
Increase font size Decrease font size