Voting for Women’s Choices


Irene Hensley lives in Edgerton and has been retired for 10 years. She’ll tell you she’s the mother of six children, even though only five are still living. Her first child was born when she was 17, but the baby didn’t survive.

On a rainy day in Janesville, she rummaged through vegetables at a farmers’ market in tears telling me about her first pregnancy. Hensley says she is voting this year because she wants young women to have opportunities for choice.

“I’ll never forget the doctor who saved my life,” she said. “I want women to have the choices I didn’t.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

At 7 months pregnant, Hensley took ill with the German measles. Her doctor told her she either had to abort the pregnancy or risk her own life. But in 1952 it was illegal for doctors to abort pregnancies without parental consent, depending on a woman’s age.

Hensley’s mother said no to the abortion and wanted her daughter to carry the baby to term. She says her doctor offered to induce labor in order to save her life.

“He told me he couldn’t let me leaving knowing what would happen,” she said. “He helped me at a time when nobody else would.”

Hensley worked in manufacturing her entire working life and raised her children as a single mother. Women’s rights, in addition to her concern for the poor, are both reasons she is leaning toward voting Democratic in November.

Ricardo de Leon from Madison shares her concerns.On a sunny Monday morning at the YMCA in Sun Prairie, he was on his way to lift weight at the gym like he does everyday.He is voting for President Obama because he says he, “doesn’t believe anything Governor Romney says.”

More than anything, he’s worried about his children.

“I got three daughters. I don’t want anyone to tell them what to do with their bodies. Even myself, I don’t tell them what do to.”

This story is part of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Road to November series. Reporters Maureen McCollum and Lindsey Moon are traveling north along Highway 51 talking to voters about the election all this week. What issue is most important to you? Tweet @WPRNews #WIpolitics. Find updates from the road on WPRNews’ Facebook page.

Hats off to members like you! WPR Bucket Hat $20/month. Give Now.