Brooks McCabe noted his mother's magic touch with a difficult issue.
"Jane McCabe was not afraid to speak her mind and was able to do it in a way that softened the rough edges of a volatile issue. She was also able to approach opinion leaders in the community and encourage them to enter the discussion, even if it was uncomfortable to do so," he said.
Jane McCabe's relationship with the St. John's Episcopal Church community was crucial to her success in opening the Center. The Women's Health Center established its organizing office at St. John's in 1976.
From its church home, the center relocated to Kanawha City close to CAMC Memorial Hospital and established nonprofit status, becoming the first facility of its kind in West Virginia providing pregnancy testing, first-trimester abortions and health education programs to the public. Funding for the center came from individual donors and a loan from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America supplemented with matching funds raised by volunteers.
Today, the Women's Health Center is on Washington Street West. It offers a full range of women's health services, provides educational and preventive services to promote wellness, including heart disease prevention. The center also advocates for a comprehensive system of health services for women and for reproductive choices.
Maggie McCabe said that although her father's family had established financial security, her mother was not raised with money. She understood that privilege alone allowed her to help her unwed teenage daughter avoid becoming a parent before she was ready. That awareness drove her to find a way to help all West Virginia women have the same access and opportunity.
Brooks McCabe said his mother understood the problem was providing health services and counseling based on accessibility and affordability to those with modest means, especially when abortion services and even some forms of contraception were only recently legal.
"It was at a time and place where candid discussions on such a topic were out of favor," he said. "Some issues were better discussed in private, and as such, were inadequately addressed."
Public dialogue about women's health issues is characteristic of former West Virginia delegates Bonnie Brown and Bobbie Hatfield, the first Jane Mason McCabe award recipients.
"Over the years, Delegates Brown and Hatfield have stood up for women's rights despite the potential of political backlash," said Ann Stottlemyer, Women's Health Center board president. "They have both been protectors of a woman's right to choose and to have access to birth control; they've been brave and strong and put their re-election at risk."
The Jane Mason McCabe Event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 1 at the Charleston Woman's Club. It is open to the public, and tickets cost $30. A reception with heavy hors d'oeuvres, beer and wine will be followed by an awards presentation.
"Jane McCabe had the confidence to pursue what she felt was right and was able to convince others to do the same. She was able to do all of this without ever passing judgment on anyone," said Brooks McCabe. "Understanding the needs and varying circumstances for different people consumed much of her effort. It was never about herself, it was always about the community."
For tickets to the Jane McCabe event or for more information, call 304-344-9838.
Reach Elizabeth Gaucher at Elizabeth.Gauc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.