Abortion Stories Before Roe v. Wade | Iris


He said, uh, “I’m not going to give you any anesthetic.” And he said, “If you scream, they will hear you.” I woke up to feeling a man’s hand on my throat and saying, “If you make a sound, I’ll kill you.” You know there were a lot of years in there of heavy drinking and I wasn’t even responsible for myself. I never would have been responsible for a child. I just was in the position that every woman knows, you know, on the table with my legs spread apart, and this man is inside me, scooping me out as if I were a piece of fruit or something with a-with this implement. I could not believe that I was seeing this. I just went home and cried. Someone gave her a hanger abortion perforated her uterus, and her bowel. And by the time she came to the hospital, she was in septic shock and she died. They said, “Look, if you’re pregnant and you want an abortion,” “this is the process.” And I would have to basically say that I will commit suicide if I do not have this procedure. I said I… I do not want this baby. It turns out that, in fact, the hospital would not do the procedure. And so I had to look for, um, an abortionist. When I tell this story, I always refer to myself as a daughter of privilege. Because I was very lucky. My father was a doctor. He made the arrangements once I made the decision. The pain was so, uh, outrageous that I do remember leaving my body. I didn’t scream. But I do remember, it was the feeling that that I was up out of my body looking down on it. I drove up with a friend to um, upstate Louisiana and had an abortion. He was an M.D. The doctor said, “you’ll be in some pain, but it’ll go away.” The third day, I was still in a lot of pain. In fact, I was in more pain. The second woman, a young woman, who was really my age, who was the mother of two little children, and, uh, the family could not afford a third child, so she had an abortion. And within 48 hours, she died of tetanus. My father drove me there. He was very afraid that he would be fired if they knew that he was involved in something like this. When we went to the appointment, he took all of his identification out of his pocket and left them at home. I was actually given a cover story. You know, I think he was as scared as I was. It had been a very bad abortion. The doctor had actually left in tissue that had, um, I guess putrefied may be the right word. And had caused massive, um, infection in this whole area of my body. Uh, peritonitis, it’s called. And I was in the hospital for two weeks. The doctor said, basically, I was seven hours away from death. He did a complete D&C. He came after the procedure was done and said, “I am so sorry Jane, I had to report this to the police.” My father parked underneath the expressway and it was dark and there was a streetlight. I remember as I was walking in, I looked back. He was sitting in the car under the streetlight trying to read the newspaper. And you know, that just gets me every time because, um, we weren’t really that close, but yet, he came through for me at that time. After he had finished, he showed me, “Here’s what I took out of you.” He said, uh, “You must not let any boys touch you.” “It’s very important that you keep yourself pure.” And at that point, he started to molest me. And all this time, of course, I’ve got blood coming out of me. I can’t make a sound, I can’t call out. I can’t do anything. The police came to the hospital and they wanted to know who had done it. Well, he did almost kill me so I… do I want to give his name to them? On the one hand, and on the other hand, I believed in abortion. And um, I didn’t want to see this doctor arrested. He was doing me a favor. Because of the stigma, a lot of them were afraid to go to the ER. And so they just bled out. So that was the third person I saw who died of abortion in that short period of time, in one little hospital in the middle of Brooklyn. And it made me think that there must have been a lot more than anybody ever said there was. Being raped was pretty bad, but having an abortion was shameful. The period of time that this was happening, you did not want anybody to know that you were doing this. I’ve regretted not having children, but I still don’t regret having the abortion. Because I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. I couldn’t get pregnant, and that in part was probably related to a lot of scar tissue from that peritonitis. At this point, it’s extremely safe. In 2012, there was a total of four abortion-related deaths in the United States. If we don’t guard, very preciously, you know, and fiercely, the… the right to have an abortion, this is what it’s going to be like again. It always stuck with me, of how lucky I was to be able to make my own decision and have somebody help me. The abortions will continue regardless of whether it’s legal or not legal, as it always has. This is like 50 years later, it seems almost like yesterday, I could still see their faces. If abortion doesn’t continue to be legal, women will lose their lives. Women will have abortions. Women were having abortions when they were illegal. And women died, and I almost died. It’s just really important today to make sure that people understand how important it is to have your options. I feel more strongly than ever, the older I get. We can’t lose this right.

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