My Tijuana Abortion by Bonnie Brady
In 1960 after a too early, failed teenage marriage, I returned to college as a sophomore. I settled into my classes and hung out in the campus coffee shop with a group of fellow “commuters”. We socialized on weekends and eventually I started dating one of the guys. We studied for Biology exams together, went to jazz clubs and became “friends with benefits” before that was a thing.
I was horrified at how easy it was to get pregnant. Neither of us had any interest in getting married, let alone having a baby. We both had other plans for the future and, we weren’t in love.
Before Roe vs. Wade abortion was illegal and penalties were stiff. I shared the news with my mother and she went to work trying to find a local doctor willing to help me. Unsuccessful, she asked her housekeeper with family in Tijuana for help finding a doctor in Mexico. It was well known that abortions were available there, though also illegal. There was also an abundance of whispered horror stories of abortions gone wrong.
So, my brave mother, $400 in hand and an appointment with a “real” doctor in Tijuana drove us from Los Angeles across the border and somehow found that clinic. We walked into the storefront clinic and the doctor, upon seeing two terrified and affluent appearing gringas, doubled the price to $800. He insisted my mother drive back across the border to a bank and get the additional cash. This was long before there were ATMs. Off went my mom, reluctant to leave me but resolved to see it through.
The doctor escorted me out the back door of the clinic to what appeared to be an enclosed, covered patio. I got on the exam table and as he prepped me he began to instruct me on what to say if we were stopped by the police. He said tell them nothing, unless they examined me and found my pubic hair had been shaved. I was to tell them a nurse had done it in the U.S.
He gave me a local anesthetic but no sedation, in case he had to rush me out the back if the cops showed up. I was terrified, but resigned. As he began the procedure, a Dilation & Curettage, he continued to grill me on what I would say if stopped by police. I just wanted to close my eyes, turn my head and grit my teeth, but he insisted I repeat it over and over again. I had some discomfort, not really pain, but remember to this day the sound of the splat and splash of the contents of my uterus being scraped into a metal bucket on the floor beneath me. After the procedure, he gave me an antibiotic injection and some pills for later.
About then Mom showed up with the additional cash. After repeating the instructions on what to say to police, he assured us I would be fine. We fled, made a beeline for the border and were paranoid that we had been observed and would end up in the Tijuana jail with no money. As we crossed back into California, we heaved a sigh of relief. My health was not affected, and we never spoke of the ordeal again.