Lorraine Rothman

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Lorraine Rothman

Lorraine Rothman (1932 – September 25, 2007[1]) was a founding member of the feminist Self-Help Clinic movement. In 1971, she invented the Del-Em menstrual extraction kit to provide abortion to women before Roe v Wade. According to Lorraine, she thought, "What did women do before there were doctors? Let's stop the humiliation of trying to persuade the powers that be to legalize abortion. Let's just take back the technology, the tools, the skills and the information to perform early abortions and be in charge of our own reproduction." [2]

She was born Lorraine Fleishman in San Francisco, California in 1932. While working full-time, she attended Los Angeles City College and California State University Los Angeles, where she received a B.A. and teaching credential in 1954. After marrying in 1954, she moved to Baltimore with her husband, Al Rothman, and taught in the Baltimore City Public School System. She returned to California with her husband and children in 1964 and resumed public school teaching.

In 1968, Rothman first joined a local women's liberation group that met at California State University Fullerton, and then became a founding member of the Orange County chapter of NOW. Rothman's collaborative relationship with Carol Downer and the Self-Help Clinic movement began when she attended a meeting in 1971 organized by Downer to discuss women's reproductive rights and abortion. In the weeks before the meeting, Downer and a few other women had visited Harvey Karman's illegal abortion clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles to learn how Karman performed abortions. Rothman volunteered to adapt Karman's manual vacuum aspiration equipment for home use. A week after her first meeting with Downer, she demonstrated the prototype of the Del-Em menstrual extraction kit for their group. In 1972, Downer and Rothman founded the first Feminist Women's Health Center (FWHC) in Los Angeles. Later on, she co-founded the second Feminist Women's Health Center (FWHC) in Santa Ana, California.[3]

Over the next two decades, Rothman traveled widely, taking the Self-Help Clinic concept to women's groups both in and outside the United States. In addition to working as an administrator, Rothman wrote health education guides for the FWHCs. In 1999, Rothman co-authored a book critical of hormone replacement therapy. Of HRT she has said, "Hormone Replacement Therapy is a misnomer: they are not hormones (they are drugs made synthetically in the laboratory), they are not replacing anything (our bodies continue to make enough hormones during and after menopause), and they are not therapeutic (menopause is not a disease)."

Lorraine Rothman died of bladder cancer on September 25, 2007, in Fullerton, California.[4]



  1. ^ Pearce, Jeremy. "Lorraine Rothman, Women’s Advocate, Dies at 75". http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/09/us/09rothman.html. 
  2. ^ "Self-Help: A Revolution in Women's Health". Feminist Women's Health Center Newsletter. 2002. 
  3. ^ "Women's Health in Women's Hand". http://www.womenshealthspecialists.org/about-us/lorraine-rothman. 
  4. ^ "Lorraine Rothman 1932 - 2007." (n.d.). Veteran Feminists of America. Retrieved September 29, 2007.