What Happened Before Roe?
Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Writing for Mother Jones, Eleanor Cooney brings us stories, including her own, of what it was like before the landmark ruling:
After a date rape (by a “poet”) during a trip to Paris in 1967 when she was 23, she found herself pregnant. She tried the usual “remedies”—scalding hot baths, violent jumping, having someone walk on her belly. When she got home to Minnesota, she was two months along. A doctor friend there said he couldn’t help her himself, but sent her to a local prostitute who did abortions.
The prostitute had her own speculum. The procedure was done on the prostitute’s bed: The catheter was inserted through the cervix and left there. After four days of high fever, chills, bleeding, and passing big chunks of tissue, she landed in the hospital. They said her uterus was perforated, that she had acute peritonitis and an “incomplete” abortion. She was given a huge dose of penicillin and treated as if she were some sort of contemptible lower life form. The emergency-room doctor snarled, “What have you done to yourself?” Later, she realized that the first doctor—her friend—had known all along that she’d probably get desperately ill. Only then could a hospital legally give her a D&C.
She recovered—sterile, violently allergic to penicillin, and so “paralyzed and ashamed” by the experience that she stayed away from men for four years. Who says deterrence doesn’t work?