My name is Beedy Parker. I graduated from college in 1960, in Massachusetts, where birth control devises were not available to unmarried girls, even for the honeymoon (you had to have official papers to present). Because of this, my boyfriend and I carefully practiced the rhythm method and, if in doubt, withdrawal. I was very regular, could tell when I ovulated, and my boyfriend was very controlled, but we were also very lucky. I would not have allowed this relationship if I’d not been convinced that he would leave me otherwise. We married, I got a diaphragm, and we went off to live in other countries, doing satellite tracking work.
I had a friend in Spain, who had 4 young children, born close together and she would joke ruefully about her husband's unwillingness to stop getting her pregnant. A year or so later, back in the states, I learned that she had already had another child and developed osteoporosis, though still quite young. I was sad and shocked at the trap she was in. I began to volunteer for Planned Parenthood, contacting recent mothers who had asked for birth control advice while in hospital after the birth of their babies. I would take my youngest with me to visit the mother and her children and we would talk about birth control.
And then things changed. My first husband left. I became pregnant two years later in the summer of 1969, twenty nine years old, with an IUD in place. I had two young daughters by my first husband. I was entering a relationship with the man who became my second husband (until he died fourteen years ago), but we were not yet married, and we thought we could not get pregnant. This was still in the Boston area, and abortion was still illegal.
I went back to the doctor who had placed the IUD and asked him if he would remove it and thus terminate the pregnancy. He jovially replied that he wouldn’t, but that a baby would born, unharmed, “with an IUD clutched in his fist”. I doubted this, but I think I understood that he could not afford to remove the IUD under the circumstances of the law.
So we started exploring our possibilities for an abortion, feeling that we had quite enough to deal with without having another child at that time. My partner had a young son with his first marriage and was finishing up graduate school. We contacted Bill Baird, an abortion rights activist, who subsequently spent time in jail for his activism. Through Bill, we found that we needed to go to Montreal for the abortion. We could afford the trip, though barely, and had strong support from friends and family. We made the appointment and the arrangements, grateful that I could get the procedure within the first trimester.
But in the meantime, I started to bleed and called my IUD doctor, who told me to come to the hospital right away. I was wheeled in and given a D&C. While lying there, I was told that the IUD was imbedded in the wall of my uterus and had almost perforated the uterus wall.
I then realized something profound: that my life and welfare, and the lives of other women, were not very important to society at large. I think I became radicalized at that point and have so continued since. I also made the mistake then of flippantly asking the nursing crew if this was an abortion, which was followed by a shocked silence. I realized that might have exposed the doctor in some way. Dick and I married eight months later and had another child two years after that.
We got pregnant again not long after the third child and I had a legal abortion via D&C in my doctor's office, and then Dick got a vasectomy.
Since then, I have followed reproductive rights and the threat against the right to abortion, and supported organizations in other countries where reproductive care and options are needed, too. I’ve seen how hard it is to have too many children and not enough support. I watched the far-right attack clinics, and I testified in favor of the right to abortion when it was threatened in my home state. When I told political friends that the right to abortion was under threat, I was told it was not a high priority issue. Now that we have lost that right in so many states, I want to go on defending it, and trying to remove the stubborn stigma surrounding it, still a forbidden and embarrassing subject in most circles.
We must not be ashamed of needing to terminate a pregnancy, of protecting ourselves and our families. We must support and cherish young women, especially, who make this choice and are threatened with guilt and shame by hostile political and religious policies.