I'm Leigh Keeley and this is my Pre-Roe abortion story.
The year was 1966. It was January the start of my last semester at a Catholic University in Washington D.C. when I discovered that I was pregnant.
In those days I knew nothing about birth control and even if I had access was difficult without parental approval. I was terrified. I had no idea where to turn for help. The only fact I was absolutely sure of was that my parents must never find out. I would do anything to keep that from happening.
I searched the Yellow Pages and found a physician's office in a part of Washington D.C. as far from the school as I could go. After a long bus ride into what felt like a foreign country, I sat in the doctor's waiting room filled with African Americans, certain that every person in that room knew why that little blonde girl was there. That doctor was very kind and gentle, and he confirmed that I was pregnant and said there was nothing more that he could do to help me.
My ex-boyfriend in New York City got the name of a woman who had helped other women at his school and arrangements were made for the procedure to be done in his apartment in New York.
The only person I told was my roommate because I really needed someone to know where I was going and why, in case something went terribly wrong.
I have blocked off all memory of the actual experience except uh the recollection of pain: emotional pain, physical pain.
When I returned to school, I found that my roommate unable to bear the weight of my secret had told the Dean of the school and she insisted that I meet with a priest and a doctor of their choosing. The doctor--good Catholic that he was--examined me without comment then told me that all was well. Because he was vague and nonspecific, I thought he meant that the procedure had been successful but soon discovered that he meant that I was still pregnant.
I returned to New York, the procedure was repeated without medication, and to ensure that it was successful this time I walked around Washington for three days until it became clear that this wasn't happening, and I had to return to that doctor.
He was very angry, accused me of having an abortion which I adamantly denied and made me go to the hospital and insisted that I call my parents while he remained in the room to make sure that I did it. He hooked me up to a drip designed to induce labor, since once again the abortion had not fully succeeded and after 24 hours, he did a D&C. Then everything was finally over, except the ordeal of facing my parents.
My roommate later told me that my blood pressure had dropped dangerously low during the procedure. The doctor's only input was to tell me that the baby had been a boy. My father made me reimburse him for the hospital costs.
I later married but was never able to get pregnant again. I had two ectopic pregnancies and a hysterectomy at the age of 30. I am certain that the abortion was the underlying cause of that.
For years I felt that I was being punished by a fearsome God for the sin of murder and it is only in very recent years that I have been able to forgive myself. I regret that I couldn't see any other way out. In a kinder wiser society perhaps I would have been able to give that child life.
But my experience has led me to believe strongly that women must stand up for their right to make their own decisions when they become pregnant. Without shame without stigma without fear.