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February 01, 1970 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-02-01

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mber 22 Night Editor: Jim Neubacher

February 1, 1970

he classical arguments reviewed
A woman's right to an abortion

1N OCTOBER, 1969, a federal judge in the District
of Columbia made a decision that might become a
major legal. precedent-he refused to uphold the
antiquated abortion law.:
Federal District Judge Gerhard A. Geseil, son
of a pediatrician, threw out an indictment against
a local physician charged with violating the district's
68-year old law prohibiting abortion except when
"necessary for the preservation of the mother's life
or health."
He ruled on a technicality: the law was unen-
forceable because it is nearly impossible to determine
if a mother's "health" is endangered by a pregnancy.
But Gesell went further:.
"...a woman's liberty and right of privacy
extends to family, marriage and sex matters, and
may well include the right to remove an unwanted
child, at least in the early stages of pregnancy."
Although Gesell's action only acquitted one doctor
and did not change the law, the judge realized the
imiportance of the decision and urged the prosecuting
attorney to appeal the decision immediately to the
Supreme Court. The appeal has not yet been filed,
but it is certain to come, and supporters end op-
ponents of abortion reform are awaiting the court's
action with a curious mixture of hope and fear.
Gesell's decision is a recent display of the rising
tide of public sentiment 'favoring the reform of the
nation's outdated abortion statutes. (New York's is
86 years old, New Jersey's is 120, and both impose an
absolute ban on abortion except when it is- necessary
to save the mother's, life.)
The attack on these statutes has been mounted
before, but this time, it seems as if the pro-abortion
forces might succeed in overcoming the resistance
to change. The main supporter of the current laws
is the Roman Catholic Church; the Second Vatican
Council called abortion "an unspeakable crime." But
the church is faced with the toughest fight yet.
Reputable doctors, lawyers, and housewives have
teamed with researchers to strip away many of the
myths surrouding abortion, and the possible effects
of legalization. For the first time, the emotional,
religious and moral arguments are being forced to
give way to statistics 'and expert opinion.
HEREIN MICHIGAN, where the law also bans
abortion unless necessary to save the mother,
the State Senate is considering two reform bills,
either of which, if passed, would make Michigan's
abortion policy the most liberal in the nation.
Senate Bill 287, spousored by Ann Arbor's Repub-
lican Sen. Gilbert Bursley, would completely liberal-
ize abortion, making the decision a private matter
between the woman and a licensed physican.
Senate Bill 288, introduced by Sen. John Mc-
Cauley (D-Wyandotte), would remove from the Mich-
igan Criminal Code all penalties against licensed doc-
tors performing abortions. This would accomplish
the same thing as Bursley's bill, through a "back-
door" method.,
Both of these bills are now before the Senate
Health, Social Services and Retirement Committee,
chaired by Sen. N. Lorraine Beebe (R-Dearborn),
an ardent supporter of abortion reform. Mrs. Beebe
says she has promised McCauley and Bursley she
will get the bills reported out of her committee and
has begun a series of special public'hearings on the
bills throughout the state.
Mrs. Beebe says she believes that the arguments
in favor of abortion liberalization will be iard to
combat if the committee can gather enough inforina-
tion .and testimony on this emotional topic.
' BETWEEN1 and 1.2 million abortions-most of
them illegal-are performed each year in the
U.S. This amount to one abortion for every 3.5

at the moment of conception, when the sperm fer-
tilizes the egg with the resulting reproduction of
hormones signifying that a growth process has be-
gun. Abortion is thus no better than murder.
The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic
educatioinal and service organization, has financed,
an advertising campaign designed to remind the
public of this uneasy question. In their ads, they
equate abortion with genocide: "If the unborn child
can be killed, what about the aged, the sick and
the handicapped? . . . Just 30 years ago the Nazis
preached the same philosophy."'
But the persuasiveness of this argument has been
undermined by some medical opinions and legis-
Since a fetus is incapable of surviving outside the
womb in .the early stages of its development, even
if cared for, proponents of reform argue that it is
embryonic and not true human life. And they point
to the fact that most abortions are performed be-
fore the twelfth week of pregnancy.
The same state legislators that have outlawed
abortion have bought this position. In many states,
death certificates are not required for a fetus until
the major portion of the gestation period has been
completed. In Michigan, the fetus is not.recognized
as a legal person until after the 26th week of preg-
nancy, nearly two-thirds of its unborn life.
This line of argument has not convinced the
Roman Catholics, however, who say that the fetus'
vulnerability is greater reason to protect it. They cite
research, which shows measurable mental growth
in the fetus after the fourth week of its life and
maintain that it "dominates its environment."
'UBTHE DEBATE over when life begins is a
stalemate and does little to resolve any con-
But if the powerful Catholic lobbies have managed
to subdue the persistent civil liberties ones, the tide
of public opinion seems to be shifting toward reform.
A poll conducted by Modern Medicine magazines
revealed that 63 per cent of American doctors favor-
ed providing an abortion to any woman who asks for
one. (Of the 63 per cent backing liberalization, how-
ever, 12 per cent qualified their response by saying
they would allow abortion only when necessary to
protect the mental or physical health of the mother
or when the pregnancy comes as a result of rape
or incest.)
A smaller survey conducted at the University by
Public Health Dr. John Eliot showed that 90 per
cent of the women on campus favor some liberal-
ization of the current law..
And almost all of those who did not believe the
law should be eased asked for better birth control
Interestingly enough, the Catholic women inter-
viewed responded almost the same as the non-
BUT WHILE the tide of public opinion begins to
change, those who oppose the law now have no
recoprse other than to openly oppose it and secretly
defy it.
Headlines were made three weeks ago when police
broke up a ring of lawbreakers, including several
rabbis and Protestant clergymen from Detroit and
Their business had been securing illegal abortions
for women who needed them and their work had
gone on-half above and half underground-with the
cooperation of reputable doctors, ministers and
And their conviction that what they were doing
had to be done drove them to defy the law with
impunity. One spokesman for this position is the
Rev. Harry T. Cook, minister of the Emmanuel Epis-

and 288. All the whiie, everyone involved will be
watching the Supreme Court with a careful, eye. Its
decision will be significant in determining the future
of abortion statutes.
But should the court reverse Judge Gesell's
District of Columbia decision, it certainly will not
rule out change of the law through the legal process,
and the State Senate will certainly be asked to con-
sider reform bills, if not during this session, then
next session and the session after that, until one
"I think we can pass a liberalization bill in the
Senate this term," one legislator says, "but the House
will be tougher. It has a large number of RC's." Re-
ports of 'pressure by the church during the last
Senate debate of a reform bill, in June, 1969, are true
according to this legislator.
"The night before the vote, a number of the
senators received direct calls from the parishes in
their districts, telling them that they would not get
support for re-election if they voted for that bill."
The bill, introduced by Sen. Beebe, would have
allowed abortions when the physical or mental health
of the mother was threatened by continuation of
pregnancy, or if the pregnancy resulted from raps
or incest. It was defeated 17-16, despite a dramatic.
plea for support from Sen. Beebe, in which she re-
vealed that she had once had an abortion.
The defeat of that measure may have been a
pyrrhic victory for the church, as the measures now
before the Senate are far more liberal and stand
some chance of passage.
The pressure against reform will come again, no
doubt, and the pro-reform forces don't know at this
point 'whether they can effectively combat it. They
will attempt to fight it however, with facts and testi-
mony in order to present the case for individual fe-
male liberties, the right to control one's own
body, and the necessity for safe, supervised
abortions in place of the many illegal operations now


What you can get for $500 down in advance:
The agony of undergoing an illegal abortion


Between 1 and 1.2 million abortions-most of them illegal-are perform-
ed each year in the United States. This amounts to one abortion for every
3.5 successfully completed pregnancies. Of these arbortions only about .2
per cent take place within the law. .
Statistics indicate that most abortions are performed illegally and at gr'eat
expense by butcers or the women themselves.
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BARBARA LEFT home to come to the Univer-
sity when she was 17 and has been self-support-
ing since then.
Home life was not pleasant.
She recalls that her sex education was virtually
non-existent. "I started menstruating before I knew
what it meant. I was really a confused kid about that
time," she says.
Before she left home, her father told her only
one thing-don't get pregnant. "It's not that great,"
he said.
But Barbara, who at the age of 20 began to live.
with the man she still loves, did get pregnant. Con-
traceptives were 'available, she says, but "sometimes
we used them, and sometimes we didn't. This time,
for one or another stupid reason, we didn't use
them." She was 22 and a graduate student when she
found herself pregnant.
"My first reaction on getting pregnant was 'Wow!
I'm a woman.' But then all the practicalities of the
world descended upon me," she says.
"My man is still in school," she explains, "and
if we had a kid it would mean one or the other of
us would have to quit school. I'm in a doctoral
program, and we're both living on stipends."
With the guidance of an Ann Arbor doctor and
the help of two local psychiatrists, Barbara was able
to obtain a legal abortion in Maryland, where the
law allows doctors to perform the operation if there
is significant danger that a continuation of the preg-
nancy would be a threat to the mother's physical
or mental health.
A panel of psychiatrists in a Baltimore hospital
had to review the recommendations by the Ann
Arbor psychiatrists, Barbara says. She describes
"getting herself up" for the 'interview, puting on
the emotional facade.
"They questioned me and tried to make me feel
guilty for wanting an abortion. I guess they just
wanted to make sure I wasn't going to regret it af-
terwards and kill myself or something."
The psychiatrists believed Barbara when she
told them that if she could't get an abortion from
them, she would do it herself.
"I told them there was no way I was going to
have a kid, and acted belligerant and moody," she
said. "I was really performing."
But the performance was not play acting, Bar-
bara realizes now. She knew she had to have the
abortion. "Probably all the things I said were things
I would really have considered doing if they hadn't
given me the abortion, but I didn't even consider
that possibility. They just had to okay it. They
had to."
Barbara's abortion was approved and was even-
tually performed by a doctor in the clean, clinical
surroundings of a major hospital. She stresses the
comforting effect of knowing that the abortion was
being done by a physician under sterile conditions.
"It was painless, safe, and my Blue Cross even
paid for it," she says.
"I feel no regrets at all. My experience was a good
one." she say. "Maybe if everything hadn't gone so
well, I might not feel this way. It's a very emotional
experience, and I imagine that a lot of uplucky girls
n~n p az=A a nt .. lcrc .o r n

Susan's confusion is apparent. She is not really
clear about what she wants or what she did.
"I really didn't want a kid," says said later. "I
don't know how to take care of a kid I'm just 18.
I mean, what do I want with a kid?"
So, fearing that her parents would find out,
facing a future of complication and frustration-
she knew she could not come to the University with
a child-Susan put the moral considerations out of
her mind.
"I didn't think about morality before the abor-
tion," she confessed, "because I didn't want to think
about it. Deep inside, I knew there were too many
reasons to have the abortions. I had to."
She paused for a minutes. ."I still think there
wasn't any other way."
She became pregnant last summer. Neither she

"It would have been far more 'immorL'ifa I had had the baby," she now
says. "After it was born, well, there you are . . . I would have been all that it'
had in the world, and that isn't fair."

-..:. .;:: ...:..e
w.+dir'.:::;.}. {.:;{::i{:?5::iY.:^:: . ::v'i: ":;:y':i}i:{:}Si: : . rs:"1: 'C$'r'."::i:^:.. ..

.................... .. ......r. ,,

successfully completed pregnancies. Of these abor-
tions, only about .2 per cent are performed within
the law.
In all but a few of the 50 states, abortion is per-
mitted only when continuation of pregnancy would
cause harm to the physical or mental health of the
mother, or when the pregnancy resulted from rape
or incest.
Few women qualify under these stringent limita-
tions, however, and most abortions are performed
illegally and at great expense by butchers or the
women themselves.
Dr. Leslie Corsa, director cif the Center for
Population Planning at the University, estimates
that one-fourth to one-third of all maternal deaths
are due to illegal abortions performed by hacks.
Legalization could solve this problem he con-
tends. A safe, sterile abortion performed in a hos-
pital by a licensed physicians is not costly and
is statistically safer than nine months of normal
pregnancy and delivery of a child..
Dr. John Hanlon, public health association presi-
dent, writes "The association's governing council
feels every woman should be entitled to make the

copal Church in Detroit and'a member of the Michi-
gan Clergy for Problem Pregnancy Counseling, a
group of ministers who have, since September, been
openly counseling women with "problem pregnan-
Although the service can do no more than give
advice to women, Rev. Cooke expresses the growing
need for abortion reform.
"There are no theological issues involved. The
assumption that the fertilized egg is life is unsup-
portable and grows out of an ancient philosophy
that is losing validity today. I don't know when life
begins and I don't really think any else does,
Besides, the reverend argues, it is a cruel com-
bination of law and theology which often leads
women to destroy their own lives rather than bear
unwanted children.
And many children are unwanted. In a survey
of 5600 married couples, Dr. Charles F. Westoff of
Princeton University's Office of Population ,Re-
search, found that 22 per cent of all pregnancies were
unwanted by husband, wife or both.
Moreover, nearly 42 per cent of the pregnancies
...,,,...... ........ ,, ., . ;,, ,,,,, .,~,.. ,,,,,+.a , ,, .

pregnant," Marilyn says. "Well society can afford
to be moral at a time like that; we can't."
Marilyn became pregnant last spring, just after
she returned home from the University. She was
confused, dazed, unwilling to. believe she was really
pregnant. "I cried every night," she said. "And I
cried when I got up in the morning."
Her boyfriend was unable to help her; another
girlfriend of his was also pregnant and he intended
to marry her. .
But Marilyn's mother, realizing hsr daughter's
problem, sought the aid of Marilyn's uncle, a doctor
in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
Although unsure about whether or not to bear
a child, Marilyn was convinced by her uncle that she
should not.
"It would have been far more 'immoral' if I had

nor her boyfriend had used a contraceptive. "I
really hadn't planned on doing it," she says.
"About a week afterwards, my parents forbade
me to see him again. A few weeks after that I found
out I was pregnant."
But she did see her boyfriend again.
Both Susan and her boyfriend, Bill, afraid to
go to the family doctor for advice, took the only
channel they found open. Bill's neighbor had under-
gone more than one abortion, he knew. They asked
her for help, and she told them where she got her
abortions-from an M.D. in Philadelphia, a city near
Susan's home in an Eastern seaboard state.
Susan arranged to have an abortion by the same
"He wasn't even a gynecologist, but I didn't know
of anywhere else to go," she explained.
So, for $500, Susan got a chance to go through
an abortion mill.
"When I got there, well, there were 18 other
girls in the waiting room of his clinic. Everybody
knew why everybody else was there. He must have
paid off the police. The people in the waiting room
were making jokes about it."
The doctor, with a clinic in what Susan described
as a "poor section" of Philadelphia, used a method
of abortion that is most dangerous, and very pain-
ful, emotionally as well as physically.
It was a two-day operation.. On the beginning of
the first day, he inserted a tube into Susan's uterus.
"It stayed there for two whole days," she says. She
lived overnight in the house that the doctor called
his "clinic," the tube in her uterus. "It was very
painful, and he didn't give me any sedative. It was
very painful."
The following afternoon, the doctor called her
back down to his "operating room," a card table
in the basement of the house. Susan thought that.

the baby," she now says. "After it was born, well,
there you are . . . I would have been all that it had
in the world, and that isn't fair."
Marilyn's uncle put her in touch with a gynecol-
ogist in Philadelphia, hoping he would help her
secure an abortion under the terms of the state law
which permits them when there is dahger that a
continuation of pregnancy will harm the mother's
The doctor couldn't help her: she had to be a
resident of the state to qualify under the law. But
the doctor did suggest that she consider going to
Puerto Rico where a safe abortion could be secured-
at great expense. He arranged for Marilyn to see
the Clergy Consultation Service in New Jersey.
Marilyn and her mother left for Puerto Rico on
a plane on a Thursday morning, checked into a
hotel, and, following instructions, were in. the- hotel
lobby Friday morning at 8 sharp to make a contact.
"When we got to the lobby, there were about eight
or ten other mothers with their daughters and it
didn't take much to figure out why they were there."
Marilyn was taken to a clinic in San Juan where
the doctor demanded $400 in advance.
"They asked a few routine questions. They asked
me if I was sure I knew what I was doing. Mostly,
though, they weren't very concerned. They were just
in it for the money, that was - apparent."
Marilyn, about six weeks pregnant, underwent
a routine operation involving the scraping of her
uterus. She was given a local anesthetic, but she says
it didn't work.
. "It was the first time I ever had an internal
examination, and I was in agony. The doctor cursed
at me and threatened not to perform the operation
if I didn't stop screaming," Marilyn says.
Although terrified and in pain she did stop
sreaming and the drtor went on with the onera-

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