Imagine this: The year is 1960, and a young girl is dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. She is 15, and lives in a family of ten reared by dysfunctional parents below poverty level. Uneducated and lacking job skills, she clearly understands her only chance for a better life is through education. To tell her parents of her impending shame means another beating or being driven from the family home. The father of the baby is not an option, but says he will arrange and pay for an abortion.
In that time before abortion was legal, there was no birth control available, and there were no social services available for young women in such a predicament. If she was born into a family of means, she would be quietly whisked out of town to a home for wayward girls, her baby would be born and adopted without her having ever seen its face, and she would have returned home with a bogus story about spending a year with a relative; however, this is a child from the other side of the tracks. What this girl receives is a handful of money, an address, usually an abandoned building, and a time she is to show up. If this young woman has one-thousand dollars in her hand, she will be seeing a doctor who will treat her badly and remind her she is a tramp, but if she has anything less than that, it could conceivably be a woman with a knitting needle. It will not be a medical setting, and far from sterile. Without anesthesia, the process will be painful, and without proper precautions against hemorrhage or infection, she will find herself on the sidewalk twenty minutes later wounded, bleeding, and looking for somewhere to lay down. She has no idea who performed the procedure, and has been instructed if she has complications go to the hospital. Further imagine, this is a poor woman of color. She has but a 25% chance of survival.
In the years before abortion was legalized and performed in clinics and hospitals, an estimated one million illegal abortions were performed each year in the United States. The procedures were botched and performed in dire germ-ridden surroundings, and women usually ended up at the emergency ward of the nearest hospital. Many died of hemorrhage and/or abdominal infections. The lucky ones who survived were left sterile, chronically ill, and traumatized.
Who is to say what is morally right or wrong, other than God and the woman’s own conscience, but do we ever want to return to a time when young women are being scraped off a sidewalk, and carted to local hospitals to die of sepsis resulting from botched illegal abortions?