Uncensored Feminista

Changing the world one letter at a time.

Pre Roe vs. Wade

with 3 comments

I’ve heard plenty of stories of the use of coat hangers before Roe vs. Wade. I’ve heard stories about the atrocious things that women would put themselves through in order to have an abortion and how unsafe it was. We’ve even seen things like this in popular movies like Dirty Dancing regarding the dangers of abortions and how you couldn’t trust abortionists at times because their reasons for being abortionists were shady at best. You never knew if they were doing it for the right reasons, if they cared about your life, anything. In that movie as well, we saw how certain classes and certain people viewed abortion and viewed the type of women who got abortions.

Well, the New York Times did a great article by a retired gynecologist during this time, and it puts the facts out there of how horrible it was that these women were desperate enough to endanger their lives simply to not be pregnant.

I am a retired gynecologist, in my mid-80s. My early formal training in my specialty was spent in New York City, from 1948 to 1953, in two of the city’s large municipal hospitals.

There I saw and treated almost every complication of illegal abortion that one could conjure, done either by the patient herself or by an abortionist — often unknowing, unskilled and probably uncaring. Yet the patient never told us who did the work, or where and under what conditions it was performed. She was in dire need of our help to complete the process or, as frequently was the case, to correct what damage might have been done.[emphasis mine]

The patient also did not explain why she had attempted the abortion, and we did not ask. This was a decision she made for herself, and the reasons were hers alone. Yet this much was clear: The woman had put herself at total risk, and literally did not know whether she would live or die.

If dying seemed like a better option than living simply because you became pregnant, there had to be a very good, valid reason for them to want an abortion, but the government did not feel that this was appropriate for whatever their reasons may be, whether it be a way of controlling women and what they do, or it’s a way forcing their morals on others when it’s not their place.

However, not simply coat hangers were used.

Almost any implement you can imagine had been and was used to start an abortion — darning needles, crochet hooks, cut-glass salt shakers, soda bottles, sometimes intact, sometimes with the top broken off.


The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

I can’t imagine the desperation a woman has to be in for her to do this to herself, to insert these items inside of her in order to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such. [emphasis mine]

In other words, this essentially allowed doctors to treat women and human beings who can think for themselves and make their own decisions, especially when it came to their bodies and their reproductive rights. We were no longer viewed as animals incapable of free thought and I’d like it to remain this way, for my sake and for my future daughters-should I have one- sake.

[Via New York Times]


Written by Lissette

June 8, 2008 at 8:02 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] So, browsing the “recently posted” feature on the Dashboard I found the following post (and, consequently, the accompanying […]

  2. How short people’s memories are… these stories are tragic and terrible.


    June 9, 2008 at 11:48 pm

  3. I still haven’t read this story. We have a doc in Chicago who worked our county hospital in pre-Roe days who often tells his story of seeing women come in to essentially die. Thanks for reminding us all.


    June 10, 2008 at 3:34 am

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