It’s hard to believe that it was 45 years ago, on January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in Roe v. Wade, making abortion legal in the United States. For some, this turning point in women’s reproductive rights seems a lifetime ago. Women born that year are now in their mid-forties, entering menopause. For many of us grandmothers, that date is as close as yesterday.
Recently, a couple of grandmothers from GRR sat around the kitchen table, remembering when we were young. One recalled her years as a doctor in training in the 1960s when many hospitals had separate wards for women who had had septic abortions. Another told her story of being sent away to deliver her baby and give it up for adoption. Two or three others remembered when classmates went away with no explanation and never came back. Rumors existed, but an explanation was rarely given. Another woman’s husband was a college professor in 1972 and had a student whose girlfriend bled to death in their bed after an unsafe abortion.
We remembered how difficult it was to get birth control. In some states, until 1965, it was illegal for married couples to use birth control. Unmarried couples were out of luck. Men could use condoms, but many men refused to. For women, over the counter contraceptives, such as the foam tablet (spermicide), were unreliable. The “Rhythm method” was a lottery spin. The only dependable methods, the diaphragm and “The Pill,” required a prescription, but it was illegal for a doctor to prescribe contraception for an unmarried woman until 1976. If you didn’t have money and didn’t know a doctor willing break the law to make a prescription or do an abortion, you were out of luck!
No way will we go back to those times. Abortion and birth control are critical to a woman’s health and future. We know from experience that if you can’t plan your fertility, you can’t plan your life.
GRR will fight on until every women and man, girl and boy, has access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion! Will you join us?