Byllye Avery interview excerpt

Excerpted from an interview with Byllye Avery:

If a woman elected to have a baby, and she was a low-income woman and it was decided that she’d had too many children or if she got pregnant and went to the doctor and asked for an abortion her option was the same: “I’ll give you an abortion but you have to have a hysterectomy.” The same thing was done with the woman who had a baby, and they’d determined that she’d had enough children. She would be given what was called a “Mississippi Appendectomy.” And that was a hysterectomy, or her tubes were tied while she was under anesthesia. So she woke up with a baby but she also woke up with an inability to reproduce, without her permission.

Profile: Byllye Avery

Byllye Avery , M.Ed. (1937 -) cofounded the Gainesville (Florida) Women’s Health Center in 1974 and later became its president and executive director. Four years later she cofounded Birthplace, an alternative birthing centre, also in Gainesville. In 1983, Ms. Avery founded the National Black Women’s Health Project (NBWHP – now known as the Black Women’s Health Imperative, a foremother organization to SisterSong). As executive director (1982-90) of the NBWHP, Avery helped the grassroots advocacy organization grow to an international network of more than 2,000 participants in 22 states and 6 foreign countries, producing not only the first Center for Black Women’s Wellness but also the first documentary film by African American women exploring their perspectives on sexuality and reproduction.

In recognition of her work with the NBWHP, which enabled thousands of African American women to take charge of their health care, Ms. Avery was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius award in 1989. Ms. Avery’s important work has also been recognized by the Essence Magazine Award for Community Service,the President’s Citation of the American Public Health Association, the Academy of Science Institute of Medicine’s Award for the Advancement of Health Care, Lifetime Television’s Trailblazer Award, and has been granted honorary degrees from Thomas Jefferson University, Gettysburg College, Bowdoin College, and others.

Currently she is a clinical professor at Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and an advisor to the National Institutes of Health. In 2002, Ms. Avery founded The Avery Institute for Social Change “a national, non-profit organization based in Harlem, NY that is committed to quality health care for all.”


For more information about Byllye Avery, see:

Serena Sebring - last update: November 29, 2007


Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. “Byllye Avery” Encyclopædia Britannica Online. [] Accessed on: November 29, 2007.

Voices of Choice. “An Interview with Ms. Byllye Avery” Voices of Choice: a Project of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. [] Accessed on: November 12, 2007.

~ by Serena on November 29, 2007.

One Response to “Byllye Avery interview excerpt”

  1. […] of population control has fallen almost exclusively on women who are either ethnic minorities or poor. In the past, the excuse for population control wasn’t the environment – it was preventing […]

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