Anyone who knows me will not be too surprised to learn that I had an abortion — I worked at the National Abortion Rights Action League for nine years and almost all of that time was as the Executive Director. I self-induced an abortion when I was in college.
I have not spoken about this much, but it clearly is something that has shaped who I am today. No one else knew that I had done this at the time. This was in 1964. I was like the hundreds of thousands of women at that time who annually did not know where to turn if they had an unplanned pregnancy. I had the most understanding parents who would have helped me, but I was ashamed. After believing I’d survived this without incident, I fainted in the bus station on my way back to college. I woke up in the station office in a pool of blood. They all must have known what had happened, but when I got up and said I was fine, they let me change clothes and get on my bus. no offer of help. just please leave. Years later but still before Roe V Wade, I volunteered full time in Boston at the Pregnancy Counseling Service at a time when even contraception was illegal unless you were married. I counseled up to a dozen women and girls a day to help them through the myriad decisions related to unplanned pregnancies. If they chose abortion and could afford it, we put them on chartered flights to London where abortion was legal. If they could not afford an abortion, we referred them to Clergy Counselling Service, a wonderful underground network of ministers, priests and rabbis. They made referrals to illegal abortion providers whose facilities they had visited to determined that the procedure was performed safely. When abortion became legal in NY, we organized car pools. I then organized post-abortion group sessions to discuss how the experience went. NO ONE REGRETTED IT. I certainly never regretted my abortion – I have regretted the stupidity of doing it myself. But knowing that a smart, well-informed person like me would do that, has caused me to never question a woman who seeks to plan her life, her childbearing, her future. I have worked ever since to help women have reproductive options, to not have the decision made by their senators, their families or anyone else. I wish we would no longer use the phrase ‘prochoice’ but instead say we support safe and legal abortion. We have to speak out, so I am very pleased with this 1 in 3 initiative. We should not add to the stigma by avoiding the use of the word abortion.