Speaker's Age: 63
Story Told In: 2006
27

I was 19 when I had an abortion. This was in 1962. I'm now a clinical psychologist and I teach psychology, so I know a lot more stories than I did at the time. But at the time, I was very naive. I was much more friendly with guys than girls, so I never really talked about sex or birth control.

Then I started having sex with my boyfriend, who's now my husband for over 40 years, and neither one of us paid attention... and all of a sudden I was pregnant. I knew right away I was pregnant. But we didn't know of any place to go. Abortion was illegal, and we didn't feel comfortable telling our parents or friends.

We knew one couple, marginally, that once needed an abortion, so we went to them to ask where to go. Those people had gone to Pennsylvania. They called that person and that person wouldn't do it, but he gave us the name of someone in New York City.

I was very scared because I really felt that somebody could hurt me and I had no recourse; I had nothing. I didn't know what they were going to do. The doctor said he would do it, that he wanted the money, and that I had to come back alone. He also said that if I screamed or made any noise he would stop what he was doing-- whatever it was he was doing-- and that would be it. My husband waited outside for me, absolutely scared to death and feeling very helpless.

There was no way I was going to make any noise, and it never hurt so much in my entire life. I was obviously frightened, but I knew that I had to be strong. I believed that the mistake of not using birth control was mine, even though we had limited options at that time. I gave that doctor a lot of power over me and my situation. He let me know that if anything went wrong that he would not help me, that I would have to go to a hospital. We were not from New York City, so this was particularly frightening to me. Where would I go? How would I pay? Would I die? Would I never be able to have children? When I started bleeding profusely afterwards, I was sure that everything I feared-- from dying to telling my parents how stupid I had been-- would come true.

Shortly after, I started to think about the need for birth control and abortion to be available to everybody. It became my mission. I moved to Boston in 1965 and joined a women's group. That was a change in my sense of women as friends, a change in my valuing women, and a change in my self as a woman. When my daughter was born in 1970, it was the most natural thing in the world, and that was very healing. It was the right time.