GRR! Kansas organizer, Pam Richardson, shares her grandmother’s story.
My grandmother was born in 1893. She had a baby the first year of her marriage and then, immediately got pregnant again. She told me that they could not provide for another child at the time. My grandmother had an abortion sometime between 1913-1915. Not only could she not afford another child but they couldn’t even pay the doctor. So they gave him a young shoat as payment (my grandparents had a small pig farm).
My grandmother was the second youngest of eight sisters. As her older sisters married, they had moved away from their tiny rural community in Missouri to larger towns and cities. Grandma Belle went to stay with one of them to get the abortion. I wondered that maybe she wasn’t the only one in her family to have an abortion because none of her sisters ever had more than two children.
Interestingly, my grandmother was a Southern Baptist and deeply religious; she said her decision was strictly economic and that she never understood why people were against it on religious grounds.
Throughout history, women have chosen to limit their families for the sake of their health, happiness, and economic viability. Men and women frequently made these choices without the guilty association of sin; whether abortion and contraception were legal often had nothing to do with a society’s piety. Instead, the legal status of abortion was tied to a society’s outlook regarding sex and gender, with religion giving a moral high ground to either side of the argument.