My Abortion Before Roe v. WadeRoundup
tags: Roe v. Wade, womens history, reproductive rights
Roe v. Wade is in peril. New restrictions on abortion exist in a dozen states. Providers are threatened with jail. And this week, the Supreme Court heard yet another attack on abortion rights with the Louisiana case June Medical Services v. Gee. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the ruling may leave the state’s 1 million women of reproductive age with only one legal abortion provider. And many other states stand ready to follow suit. This rush into the past has flung me back to a terrifying time in my own life half a century ago, one I never expected women today would have to face.
In late December 1965, I was 19 and in Brooklyn, home from college for the holiday break. I was also pregnant. I knew exactly how pregnant I was because I’d spent Thanksgiving with my boyfriend, Mark, who was in graduate school in Indiana.
I don’t remember everything about this time, but my memories of many of the details are extremely vivid.
On a freezing Monday morning just before dawn, I was standing by myself on a street corner in Rahway, New Jersey. In my pocket was a white envelope filled with five $100 bills that my parents had willingly given me to pay for an abortion. I kept checking to make sure the envelope was still there, as I waited for a stranger to pick me up and take me someplace—who knew where?—for the abortion I’d scheduled the Friday before.
The person I had made the appointment with warned me that the driver would not stop if he thought he could be followed, so Mark was parked out of sight around the corner, waiting for me to return. The person on the phone also told me that I would likely lose blood and that I would need red meat. At home, my mother was waiting to cook me a steak.
That is, I thought, if I got home. Would anyone ever see me alive again? A day earlier, I’d read a story in the paper about a woman named Rita Shea. She’d been found dead in her car, which had been left parked in front of her home. She was the victim of a botched abortion performed in an airport motel near JFK. The medical student who had performed the abortion had been arrested. Would I be taken to an airport motel too?
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