When I got pregnant, the only legal choices were to travel to New York or Washington, D.C.
So, one day in March, Russ flew away to Marine boot camp in San Diego. Two days later I flew out of the same airport for the other coast for the procedure. No one on Earth knew where I was or what I was up to. My parents died never knowing. (I believe my father would have killed me. Literally).
Russ had signed up for the Marine Corps because his draft lottery number was SIX. He knew he’d have been swept up by the Army and sent to Vietnam.
I tried to be open-minded when making my decision. I visited an unwed mothers’ home called Birthright. We talked about adoption. I knew it just wasn’t right for me.
The abortion would cost Russ a month’s net pay. I was a freshman in college. We’d been dating a year and a half. He was one of 9 siblings. He desperately wanted us to marry. But I insisted we do this my way. All his friends were blue collar workers (not penniless students like me). He was able to have earned and borrowed enough money to get the $450 I needed.
But where exactly to go? I don’t remember how I got this lady’s name and number. Her name was Violet ___. She told me about New York and Washington, DC and gave me the number of the clinic in Washington. She was associated with the free health clinic In Overland Park which I had not known existed. Later I got gyno exams and script for The Pill there.
I had trouble getting a ride from my college over the 70 miles to the airport. I missed the original flight and wasput on a later one to Baltimore. It arrived after midnight. The airport was deserted. I had no idea how far it was from Baltimore.
I just followed the other passengers out to a bus that said Washington, DC. That dropped us downtown, no terminal. Everyone else was being picked up by family. No cabs in sight. I was terrified someone would steal the $150 cash I had for the abortion and I’d end up being a mother because I missed a plane! I went up to the nearest office building and pounded on the door until a security guard came around. He called a cab for me. I had a reservation at Holiday Inn which I got to stay in about 5 hours. Of course, there were no MasterCards, debit cards, or cell phones. I had no more money after the unexpected cab ride and bus fare. I just had the change to call from the KC airport to college for my ride back. I didn’t eat from the time I left my college until I returned.
The next morning, I had to walk from the hotel to the clinic so I would still have cab fare for the ride from the clinic to airport. I was terrified I would be mugged. I walked through a lot of bad areas.
It was my first gynecological experience. The stirrups and speculum were a rude awakening. I had no idea what they were going to do to get me unpregnant. I didn’t really care. It went on for at least 20 minutes and hurt like blazes. I was about to beg them to stop when they finally turned off the suction.
The doctor’s office gave me a postcard with their phone number (not toll-free) and a dime taped to it. He said to call collect if I got a fever or bled very badly. 24 hours later I did spike a 103F fever and called them. They called in a script for antibiotics to the pharmacy near my college. I had no money for that! Luckily I was able to borrow some from my roommate’s friend. I walked my fevered walk through the snow to pick it up, but the pharmacist hadn’t filled it. He was looking through the phone book for the name of the doctor, which of course he did not find there. I said the doctor was in Washington, DC. He was reluctant but he finally bottled it up and handed it over. It was just penicillin, not some narcotic or anything.
I’ve never had a moment’s doubt or regret.
As fate would have it, about 15 years later, after I married my lawyer husband, we were seated at the same table with Violet at some benefit gala. I didn’t think it was appropriate to say anything, but I badly wanted to hug and thank her.