Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 5 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 2 (7 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   14 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

My Illegal Abortion

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Must Read 2   Touching 2   Well Said 1  
View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H4 6/16/12

Become a Fan
  (13 fans)
We can feel the so-called "right to lifers" nipping at our heels.  Legislators, mostly male, are trying to take us back to the days of deadly back alley abortions.  In an effort to contribute to the struggle to keep them legal, I offer here the story of my own abortion at a time when they were criminal offenses.
It is 1948.  I am 17 years old, a student at the University of Chicago.  I am a kid, immature and confused.  I am also pregnant.  At this time in history, one doesn't bring such news to the attention of one's parents, and I have to deal with it myself.  My options are twofold --  to have the baby or to abort it.  Marriage is out of the question.  Penniless except for a small allowance from my mother earmarked for college funds, living in the dorms, and, generally, totally incapable of nurturing and supporting myself, much less a child, I have only one realistic choice --  abortion.  Unfortunately, in 1948 abortions are not legal, and one has to find what is called a "kitchen table" abortionist to perform the dreaded procedure.  If one is very fortunate, perhaps through connections one can locate a real doctor in place of a non-medically trained quack.
I am panic-stricken.  After an arduous and time-consuming search, I find a doctor or at least I am told he is one, willing to do the operation -- for a hefty fee I am utterly unable to afford.  Somehow, though, with the help of the boy with whom I created the pregnancy, I raise the money. 
The appointment is made.  I spend a few days in utter terror.  Will I die?  Will I hemorrhage?  Will I have great pain?  Will I permanently damage myself?  Will I be able to return to the dorms afterwards and recuperate without anybody noticing? 
But, despite these truly grave misgiving, there is no backing out.
The grim day arrives.  Trembling, I enter the abortionist's office.  I stretch back in the obstetrical chair and spread my legs.  I am given no anesthetic. The doctor approaches me with a gleaming metal object.
Thank God, the rest is a blur in my memory.  I feel pulling and tugging and pain.  I feel hot liquid run down my legs.  It seems to go on and on forever.  Mercifully, it is finally over.  I go back to the dorm and lie down for a day or two, constantly afraid something will burst or break or tear.  But, it doesn't, and I eventually heal.  I am one of the lucky ones.
I am lucky because I was treated by what I assume was a physician.  I don't know what he would have done if something had gone wrong -- after all, he would  have greatly jeopardized himself if he were forced to commit me to a hospital.  Yes, horrible and traumatic as it was, I was very lucky.  Unfortunately, many women and girls of that period were not lucky at all.  There were many, many deaths, many injuries, some of which made it impossible for the victims to produce babies.  Happily for me, I grew up and had children without any accompanying medical problems.
Finally, in 1973, Roe v. Wade was enacted and abortions became legal.  I was so pleased that nobody would have to undergo what I suffered.  Of course, even legal abortions are fraught with anxiety and mental anguish, but a huge amount of the fear factor was removed once they became legitimate.
Now, we see the right-wing politicians threatening to repeal our reproductive rights.  Could repeal of Roe v. Wade be far behind?  That is why I have revealed the secret of my past -- to try and scare people into obstructing this menace.  I think newer generations of women take legal abortion very much for granted, and need to be shocked into recognizing how dangerous their lives would be if they do not retain choice over their bodies.
I appreciate that many people sincerely believe that a fetus has a soul and that aborting it is tantamount to destroying a potential human being.  I would never argue for choice on the basis that they are wrong to believe that.  There will always be theological and philosophical debate on this issue, and it will never be ultimately resolved one way or another.
But, I think the ethical aspects of the matter are beside the point....BECAUSE WOMEN WILL HAVE ABORTIONS WHETHER THEY ARE LEGAL OR NOT!  In fact, they will probably have them in numbers as great as they do now while they are legal.  So, it is not a question of preventing fetuses from being destroyed.  They will be destroyed either way.  Rather, it is an issue of saving women's lives!
Young women, I caution you to think about what happened to me and so many others -- do all you can to oppose any reversal regarding legalized abortion so that you will never have to experience such horror.  It was terrifying and extremely dangerous.  I don't want it to ever happen to you.

JOAN WILE -- author of newly-published book,
GRANDMOTHERS AGAINST THE WAR: GETTING OFF OUR FANNIES AND STANDING UP FOR PEACE (Citadel Press, May 2008 -- available at and in book stores), which is an account of her founding of (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)


Gray Panthers Applaud Obama's Vow to Fight Privatization of Social Security

I'm a woman, a Democrat, and I don't support Hillary

President Palin's First Cabinet Meeting




The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
8 people are discussing this page, with 14 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

For bravely sharing this. We face times when ... by Rob Kall on Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 5:16:25 PM
Thank you so much, Rob, for your thanks. I had to... by Joan Wile on Saturday, Jun 16, 2012 at 8:36:16 PM
This is an excellent commentary that needs to be w... by Walter Brasch on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 11:21:30 AM
to be praised by such a highly-regarded journalist... by Joan Wile on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 11:34:01 AM
... by Walter Brasch on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 11:21:34 AM
First Joan, a truly brave and selfless sharing of ... by Amanda Lang on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 11:31:44 AM
What a heartbreaking story, Amanda, but thank good... by Joan Wile on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 12:40:07 PM
I have heard all too many similar stories over the... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 1:41:49 PM
I couldn't agree more, Daniel. I just don't unders... by Joan Wile on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 5:27:01 PM
Thank you for sharing your experience, Joan. ... by Judith A Cartisano on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 3:28:12 PM
Thanks for your comment, Judith. I had a few unple... by Joan Wile on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 5:38:13 PM
I am pro-life personally but don't believe in legi... by Gustav Wynn on Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 at 7:26:32 PM
Every woman should read this and think. Think abou... by Jillian Barclay on Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 8:12:42 PM
Thank you so much, Jillian, for your encouraging l... by Joan Wile on Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 11:11:21 PM