Re: What It Was Like Having An Abortion In 1959

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That's very good. Not even the parents of today's teens remember the pre-Roe world.

I assume everyone has seen 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days? Mega-downer, but tells a similar story very powerfully.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 5:54 AM
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This is also more anecdotal evidence that the diaphragm is just a shitty type of birth control, barely better than the sponge.

I had thought that abortion had been legal in New York State earlier than it was. I had in my mind that it was legal in the 60's (not 1970). I remember hearing stories about girls at colleges in New England or Pennsylvania (F&M) was one raising money to send a classmate to New York for an abortion (with an unspoken--because it was legal there). Maybe those people are 4 or 5 years younger than I thought they were.

I just looked at wikipedia, and there's a map with the pre-Roe laws on abortion by state. It was completely illegal in most of New England while Massachusetts had an exception for danger to a woman's health. But Alabama also had an exception for a woman's health. Even in Mississipi it was legal in the case of rape. And most of the Southeastern States fall under "legal in case of danger to woman's health, rape or incest, or likely damaged fetus."

New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine are just straight illegal. I'm kind of curious about the values. Is it illegal in those northern New England states, because they see it as just killing whereas the Southern states are more interested in policing women's sexuality, so they want to make exceptions for women when it's not their fault.

I mean, it's crazy to me that birth control was illegal in 1965 in Connecticut.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:24 AM
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Thanks for sharing, LB. That is a great piece.

2: This is entirely bogus speculation, but I wonder whether the southern states specifically had a "rape" exception to make sure there was a way to keep white women from giving birth to biracial babies.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:27 AM
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Oh yeah, I saw Obvious Child last night with a greatly toned-down version of such a recounting, by the mother.

There was also an even darker story in the Roberta Gregory collection Life's a Bitch, where the person doing the procedure was a former EMT who called himself a doctor, IIRC.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:36 AM
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2:

Posner's book on sexual legal issues has an interesting take on Connecticut and Griswold, and its progeny: it should have been decided as a 1st Amendment case.

That is, the result was necessary and just, but the revival of substantive due process to accomplish it opened a can of worms and led to what is most vulnerable and problematic about Roe.

The 1st Amendment theory would be based on the Connecticut law's evident connection to the influence of the Catholic Church, and therefore violated the Establishment Clause.

I don't know how much of that is recognized fact, or whether such a decision could ever have happened. It seems implausible to me. I's appeal to constitutional lawyers is, to repeat, that it gets around substantive due process, which they tend to hate whatever their opinions on issues.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:48 AM
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Connecticut is one of the few states that takes Good Friday as an official holiday.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:57 AM
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6: I did not know that.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 6:59 AM
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Does anyone know of any good histories of the cultural values/folkways that influenced abortion policies across the different states? I'm thinking of something like the sort of things David Hackett Fischer covered in Albion's Seed only with a specific emphasis on abortion and birth control.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:03 AM
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Did you guys read that depressing article from maybe last week about what it's like for teenage girls who live in parental notification states to go before a judge and ask for them to grant her permission to get an abortion? It's basically rolling the dice and then going through an elaborate dance routine in the dark, young and terrified, in front of a stern inscrutable adult who holds your future in your hand and is sometimes pathologically whimsical.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:04 AM
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Very powerful. Thanks for posting.

BG @ 2, a diaphragm on its own isn't very secure, but combined with a spermicidal cream it's OK. Mrs y used that for years (back when she used anything), and we never had a moment's worry about pregnancy.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:04 AM
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3.2: While it may too be bogus speculation, that would be my guess as well.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:05 AM
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(Fischer, by the way, promised to do one about other cultures that were responsible for settling the U.S. I was really looking forward to reading a book on New York after reading a paragraph in AS about New York being willing to tolerate greater inequality than New England because it was settled by Dutch merchants.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:08 AM
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3 and 11: Right, that's probably a huge part of it. It's still interesting to me that Mississippi's exception is for rape and Alabama's is for health to the mother.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:12 AM
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9: Where was the article?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:13 AM
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In Mother Jones.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:14 AM
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15: I was just sort of thinking about the ways that reproductive health is different from most health but also the limits we impose on people's abilities to make choices to consent to undergo procedures when we deem them incapable in some way, e.g., the profoundly intellectually disabled or some people with serious mental illness.

My clients with guardians always had the right to refuse their assent to an invasive procedure, like a colonoscopy, but they needed the guardian to consent if they wanted to get one. (They always did.) Reproductive health was always different. You don't need permission, either way. But I wonder about a situation where carrying a pregnancy to term will definitely kill the mother, but she's really psychotic and believes that God has a special plan, and he has an angel who will deliver the baby safely while the dentist flies in and puts invisible gold teeth in in the middle of the night.

Could you make someone terminate a pregnancy against her will in an ethical way? Could there be a legal justification?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:38 AM
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2, 10: To add another anecdote to 2, Newt's a month older than he would have been if the diaphragm (with spermicide) I had been using between pregnancies had worked. We were going to start trying in November, I got pregnant in October.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:52 AM
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Whoops, we got shiny new computers overnight and this one doesn't know who I am yet.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:53 AM
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8: Have you seen the New Yorker article on abortion politics from a while back? It recounts some little-known history - like the fact that the Southern Baptists welcomed the Roe decision, and that opposition to abortion was higher among Democrats than Republicans at the time of the election of Ronald Reagan.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 8:06 AM
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19: No. I've always had the idea that In New England a Republican in Wellesley was more likely to be pro-choice than a working-class, ethnic Democrat (who was probably Catholic).

I know Geroge H.W. Bush was on the board of Planned Parenthood.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 8:26 AM
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19: Making abortion an issue was a very conscious decision by the leadership of the religious right. Presumably the NYer article goes into this in some detail. I know that things went so far as to involve retranslating portions of the bible that seem to indicate a fetus is property, not a person.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 8:27 AM
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Presumably the NYer article goes into this in some detail.

It does. She traces the political marriage of convenience between the conservatives protestants and conservative Catholics (for which protestant opposition to abortion was the wedding dowry) to a recommendation from Pat Buchanan, then an aide in the Nixon White House.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 8:59 AM
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2: I seem to remember reading that "women's health" could mean the mother was unstable and/or a suicide risk. I can't remember whether the novel where the girl walks in front of a bus (nonfatally, ultimately) after the doctor refuses her an abortion was set in London or NYC (either The Group, I think, or Margaret Drabble's first book, specifically). And not to use a TV show as historical evidence, but in "Mad Men" didn't the doctor tell whatshername that it would be different if she was unmarried or poor, but she surely had the ability to raise a third child, and plenty of money?


Posted by: bianca steele | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 9:03 AM
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I agree that it was well written; factual and straight forward but with a strong sense of the person making the decision.

Heebie, the article you linked on the judicial bypass last week was also good. Both articles did a good job of emphasizing that it's normal people who have to make these decisions--a great way to fight back against the "only sluts" narrative.

The aside in LB's linked story, about the daughters abandoned by the fathers and their families as they died from botched abortions was heartbreaking.


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 9:05 AM
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2: Interesting, but I wonder how those laws were observed and enforced. That's what actually matters anyways. Likewise, today it's theoretically legal throughout the country through the first trimester no questions asked and through the second trimester if there's any medical reason for it (I'm sure that's not exactly accurate but you get the idea), and yet there are huge barriers to the procedure in some places but none in others. For reference, I think this is the map you're talking about. "It was completely illegal in most of New England while Massachusetts had an exception for danger to a woman's health" elides the fact that ~90 percent of the population of New England lives within two hours' drive of either Massachusetts, New York, Canada, or all three. Obviously, that's still bad, but not nearly as bad as "completely illegal" sounds, nor as bad as things are right now in some parts of Texas.

Of course, it would be much harder to study that, but I'm sure someone's tried. Abortions performed right at the state line of a pro-choice state vs. an hour's drive from the border, or prosecutions of abortion providers, or something.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 9:47 AM
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If Roe is overturned, I see a future market for border stores that sell lottery tickets, booze, fireworks, and abortion on demand.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 9:54 AM
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make sure there was a way to keep white women from giving birth to biracial babies.

That's crazy; everyone knows the biracial ones are the cutest /Pam from Archer


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 9:54 AM
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25: It's true that on-the-ground reality is the most important thing, but I also think that what laws are put on the books or stay there is important too and independently interesting.

A few years ago New Hampshire just passed a parental notification law. (I'm guessing that people can go to Vermont.) The Republican who got it passed was actually opposed to a consent law, because, she said, that that would mean that a parent could force an abortion.

Massachusetts has a parental consent law, so driving there isn't an option for minors. Connecticut has no such law, but there's some law that seems to require doctors to follow the consent/notification laws of other states when the minor is resident in the other state.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 10:02 AM
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25: The situation was shitty in Texas back then too, and it appears to have been shittier in Texas than in Georgia. I find that kind of interesting.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 10:04 AM
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Here's an article about the politics that led up to the 1970 New York law permitting abortion on request (and unlike other state laws, with no residency requirement). Prior to 1970, things were much tougher, although there are references there about women flying to Puerto Rico for abortions.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 10:25 AM
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If Roe is overturned, I see a future market for border stores that sell lottery tickets, booze, fireworks, and abortion on demand.

Reality is ahead of you.

The woman, who requested that her last name not be used to avoid stigma, was referring to a drug that can induce miscarriages and is openly available in Mexico and covertly at some flea markets in Texas.

In Nuevo Progreso, only yards past the Mexican border, pharmacists respond to requests for a pill to "bring back a woman's period" by offering the drug, misoprostol, at discount prices: generic at $35 for a box of 28 pills, or the branded Cytotec for $175.

When asked how women should use the pills, some of the pharmacists said they did not know and others recommended wildly different regimes that doctors say could be unsafe.

It's really not a good sign when women are crossing the border into a Catholic country to get easier access to Plan B.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 10:40 AM
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31: That's not Plan B, which is the contraceptive taken up to 72 h after unprotected sex. That's an abortiacient, which is a bit different (although safe and effective). There is similar traffic along the MO-IL border at St. Louis, because IL has less restrictive laws.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 11:08 AM
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Plan C?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 11:12 AM
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Ugh, now I'm envisioning state prosecutors going after women for that under the new fetal-harm laws. Would they be able to prosecute if it was all done extraterritorially?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 11:26 AM
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That's not Plan B, which is the contraceptive taken up to 72 h after unprotected sex.

Thanks for the correction.

I also found this paper (pdf) about US women buying oral contraceptives in Mexico.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 11:37 AM
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Wonderfully written and immensely valuable piece, please thank her on behalf of an anonymous internet person.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 12:10 PM
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She really is awesome -- she kind of adopted Buck when her younger son dragged him home in middle school, and spending time with their family is mostly how he ended up leading the city-slicker life he does now. Tough as nails, an amazing hostess, and just a lot of fun to be around. Used to be a scuba instructor.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 12:15 PM
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Not that this isn't a fascinating story, great writing, etc., but is there a tl;dr synopsis? I made it through maybe 10 paragraphs.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 1:54 PM
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Was Abortion Story Too Long Or Just Right? Anonymous Internet Opinions Differ


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 2:25 PM
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Oh hey: in the other direction, midlevel practitioners (NP/PA/CNM) can now perform vacuum-aspiration abortions in California.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 2:36 PM
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I aspire to be a Dyson.


Posted by: Opinionated Vacuum | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 2:47 PM
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||
Speaking of New York:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/nypd-officer-kicks-head

Heh. Dumbass.
||>


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 2:54 PM
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41: So do I.


Posted by: Opinionated Sphere | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 5:06 PM
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I also want to thank you for sharing that story, and your friend for writing it. I hope that more women will write candidly about that period, because these are narratives we really need out in public.

My boyfriend's mother was very active in trying to legalize abortion in Italy, and in the 70s she used to perform abortion street theater along the canals of Venice. Apparently they would dress like bloody corpses of women who'd died from botched abortions and other things like that. She doesn't really like to talk about her past so I don't know the full details.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 10-23-14 7:12 PM
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I loved the article. She is fabulous.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10-27-14 7:17 AM
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