For women like me, who came to maturity before the 1960s, the specter of illegal and unsafe abortion is as much of a horror as the reaction of those who view a terminated pregnancy as murder. In those days there was no “pill” and the only means of obtaining a contraceptive device was through a doctor, with the exception of condoms.
As a young woman I remember both the stories and the many articles in women’s magazines that documented what happened to women who sought to end a pregnancy before there was anywhere safe to do so. Many of the doctors who went through that time and dealt with the cases of sepsis they saw in the hospitals were among the staunchest supporters for ending the illegality of abortion. They were forced in some circumstances to act illegally, even going to jail to save the life of a woman. Of course, I can also understand how a doctor like, Dr. Ron Paul, could come to the opposite conclusion and want a ban on all such procedures.
In reality, abortion has been with us as long as pregnancy and will be with us whether the anti-abortion forces are successful or not. Better, I believe, as President Clinton said, to have abortion be “safe, legal and rare.”
Over the years since Roe v. Wade I have watched the strategy of the anti-abortion crowd. I might point out that the advocates of Roe were for the most part women, and the leaders of the anti-abortion group are most often men.
The first thing the anti-abortion people had to face was that the majority of Americans were not supportive of their cause. By the end of the 1970s they discovered that the only time they were successful on a ballot issue limiting abortion was if it was tied someway to funding. Americans didn’t mind abortion. They minded paying for it.
There was only so much they could do on this kind of effort. They continued a frontal assault state by state which either failed at the ballot box or in the courts. Their position was essentially unconstitutional in the view of the courts. Failing in this, they began to chip away at abortion. State by state they instituted onerous regulations on the procedure, resulting in laws that were scientifically unsustainable and physically ridiculous. This had some effect, but certainly did not preclude the procedures.
They are now trying, with bills in legislatures, to declare, against all science, that life begins at the meeting of sperm and egg. Where they are successful, many forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization will be outlawed. In Virgin Hall I wanted to show what it was like before Roe. If legislators affirm life at fertilization—it will be that way again.