Her death was confirmed by Anne Fox, the president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, one of many anti-abortion groups in which Dr. Jefferson played leadership roles.
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, “gave my profession an almost unlimited license to kill,” Dr. Jefferson testified before Congress in 1981.
Dr. Jefferson, a surgeon, was speaking in support of a bill, sponsored by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, and Representative Henry J. Hyde, Republican of Illinois, that sought to declare that human life “shall be deemed to exist from conception.” Had it passed, it would have allowed states to prosecute abortion as murder.
“With the obstetrician and mother becoming the worst enemy of the child and the pediatrician becoming the assassin for the family,” Dr. Jefferson continued to testify, “the state must be enabled to protect the life of the child, born and unborn.”
By then Dr. Jefferson had served three terms, from 1975 to 1978, as president of the National Right to Life Committee, a federation of 50 state anti-abortion groups with more than 3,000 chapters nationwide. She had been one of the founders of the committee in the early 1970s. Besides also serving as director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Dr. Jefferson was a founding member of the board and a past president of the Value of Life Committee of Massachusetts and was active in Black Americans for Life.
It was in 1951 that Dr. Jefferson became the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, said David Cameron, a spokesman for the medical school. She later became a surgeon at Boston University Medical Center and a professor of surgery at the university’s medical school.
Born in Pittsburg, Tex., in 1926, Mildred Fay Jefferson was the only child of Millard and Guthrie Jefferson. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas College in Tyler, Tex., and a master’s degree from Tufts before being accepted to Harvard Medical School.
“She probably was the greatest orator of our movement,” Darla St. Martin, co-executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said Monday. “In fact, take away the probably.”
In a 2003 profile in The American Feminist, an anti-abortion magazine, Dr. Jefferson said, “I am at once a physician, a citizen and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow this 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.”