In 1969 abortion was illegal and women died and got horrible infections from trying to abort themselves some used coat hangers and there was the real possibility of death and sterility.
During that time, the Catholic Church prohibited birth control yet many women within the church knew where safe places were and kept the secret well as many could not afford to keep having baby after baby for health, financial, or other reasons. Brave people like Bill Baird, a champion for women’s reproductive rights and birth control access tried to educate women. He was jailed for giving out diaphragms to women in Boston Common. It was well known that there were hidden places where safe abortions were possible for wealthy women, but safe abortions were almost expensive and difficult to obtain without family support or connections. Only a few doctors were not afraid to stand up for women. The penalty was jail and career ending for them at that time.
I was 20 years old and got pregnant the first time I had sex with a boyfriend who was discharged from the military during the Vietnam War. He had no job and was in no way prepared to have a child at that time, nor was I. I had dreams of going to college to be a nurse. I decided the best thing for me was to try to have an abortion. I did not want to tell my family because I knew my father would “flip out”. I could not tell my boyfriend because he would tell my family and make them tell me to marry him. I was afraid that my family would make me marry my boyfriend who I loved but neither of us were ready for marriage. I felt this was my body and my decision and I had to take responsibility for myself alone. I also loved children and knew if I had a baby to term, I could not give it up. I could not bear the pain and broken heart of giving up a child and spending my life grieving and looking into children’s faces forever. I did not want to put my good mother through that and I felt this was my personal decision and my business. I knew what I wanted to do even though there was such a stigma about abortion and it was illegal and I could face terrible health consequences. I prayed about it and knew that it was a personal decision between me and my God who loved me. At the time my best friend and I had planned to go over the summer to Europe. I had some money saved for that and I could use the money I saved. Her father had been a doctor in Spanish Harlem in NY City and she talked with the young man who picked up lab samples about where here friend could have an abortion. I received the name of the doctor in Spanish Harlem near 125th street and was on my own. A time was planned and I took the overnight plane from Boston to NY and a taxi to the office during the night after hours. At 8 weeks, I had a D and C with no anesthesia except a shot of something that made me woozy. There was no one there except myself and the doctor. I was on a table in the back room storage area of the office with my clothes and boots on and remember how nervous the doctor was and remember seeing the beads of sweat on his head as he worked on me. He did not speak English but I was so grateful as I knew he was a good man and very kind and skilled. He did not charge me as much as originally planned as he seemed to feel sorry for me and said, ” I was a good girl”. I knew he took a big risk for me being a friend of my friends father. He gave me a few pills to take and told me to take one in particular if I had trouble and bled and told him never to call him but to go to the hospital if I started having very excessive bleeding. I left the office and being NY City on a Saturday night I had trouble getting a cab. I jumped in one cab and a man came along and yanked me out of it saying it was his cab. I also could not find a hotel room until it was very late and was wandering the streets going from hotel to hotel alone. I finally found a room and got into a clean bed. I found my way the next day to the airport and took a plane home and I knew I had done the right thing. I felt strong yet grateful to God that I had the courage and I felt that God was with me through this. I was sad I never told my boyfriend before I had the abortion and after I returned I tried to tell him that I had an abortion. He did not know how to behave as there was so much stigma…He acted out and told me, “I do not know whether to “beat the crap out of you or piss on you”….I left his apartment and never went back. I went to Europe alone after I went to stand up for my girlfriend when she ran off with her boyfriend to get married because she got pregnant. That was her decision and I respected hers and she respected mine and we are still friends today.
After this I worked for women’s rights in Boston and eventually became a nurse and married and had a son. I never regretted my decision and always regretted the hidden horror of so many women who have there own personal stories. I was never guilt ridden as I had a strong faith and I know I am brave. I now live in Texas and see women having to fight the same battle for their rights again over and over. I am appalled by the extremists religious right who sees themselves as doing nothing wrong and who tries to criminalize women and tries to plague women with guilt. I see these home grown American extremists not unlike the Taliban religious extremists as they mix church and state, hurt women and hate and fear anyone different. I am grateful brave women and men fighting to protect women’s rights and change misguided attitudes and to those who in these difficult times treat women with the dignity and respect they deserve and who provide health care privacy and safe healthcare to new generations of beautiful brave women. I am grateful to the brave good doctor who helped me in my hour of need and I am grateful to so many people who fought for women since and did the right thing despite misguided politics, extremists and “false prophets”. Women should not go back to the dark ages because of misguided courts. I am grateful to Wendy Davis who stood for Texas women and would not sit down….I stood with her.