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October 01, 1972 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1972-10-01

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a guest

Number.63 Page Four

Sunday, October 1, 1972



IT'S NOT THAT nice girls don't get
pregnant, it's just that stupid
girls do.
And I didn't like feeling stupid.
I also didn't like feeling sick. And
that's what drove me to the doctor-
"Dr. Feel Good," as my friends called
He didn't seem to care about my
nausea, my fever. No, "late mentrual
period" was enough to make him get
me up on the table and squatting on
the toilet for a urine specimen.
I had to come back the next day to
get the results. He walked into the
room, his glasses nearly falling off
his nose, looking pathetically pater-
nalistic. .
"I'm afraid you're pregnant," he
said. He started muttering something
about abortions, how he didn't know
how to get one, but some doctors did.
"Don't bother," I said, "I can han-.
dle it myself."
He was about to leave when I asked
in a plaintive voice: "Can't you do
anything about the crumm'r way I
His nurse shot my ass full of
penicillin, I paid the ten dollar bill
and went home.
I sat in front of the mirror for
about 10 minutes and cried. It
wasn't hystetical, it was the kind of
cry that makes you feel better after-
wards. I told myself it would be the
last time I would cry. And I got up
and fixed myself a big glass of milk
and a peanut butter and jelly sand-
wich-the only thing I could keep
down those days.
* * *
HOW DID IT happen? Thinking I
was safe when I had my period? Not
using enough cream? Or maybe that
morning, when I was in a hurry but
h"'d said "just once more ..."
But there was never any doubt
about the abortion. He was far away
-emotionally and physically. I still
had school, plans for the future. And
a child wasn't part of them.
There were times, though,, when
I'd lie in bed at night, my hands on
my growing pot belly, and realize
that my hormones were making me
"motherly." I'd decide that it would
have brown hair and blue eyes, heavy
on the brains, low on athletic ability.
And I'd think "maybe"-for all of
about two minutes.
* * *
I'D HEARD about that place in New
York, read about it, talked to
women who'd been there. Still, it was
just "that place in New York," so
vague a thing that I didn't call until
more than a week later.
What do you say, I wondered. "Hi,
you'll never guess why I'm calling."
Or, "I've got a problem I was hoping
you could help me solve."
I settled for: "I'd like to make an
appointment for an abortion."
She asked me how far along I was.
It didn't matter what the doctor had
told me, I knew I hadn't slept with
anyone since right after my period
six weeks before.
She then ran down a list of ill-
nesses and ailments. Heart disease,
diabetes, epilepsy, circulatory prob-
lems, vaginal infections. I answered
"no" to each one, but I was convinced
the next question would be about hay
fever or tonsillectomies and would
disqualify me.
She then checked off a list of pro-
cedures to follow. No liquids after
nine that morning, bring a kotex,

bring $125 in cash or money order,
don't pay more than eight dollars for
the cab ride from the airport.
It all started to become real.
* * *
Being an "unacknowledged unwed
mother" is like living in a black com-
edy. "Motherhood" jokes take on. a
new meaning. Then there are people
offering their seats to pregnant wo-
men, but not to you. I learned how
to excuse myself from dinner, throw
up and come back and finish the
rest. But as I bought my ticket to
New York, I passed out in the travel
* * *
WEDNESDAY dawned bright, an
auspicious day for travel. I gulped
down some orange juice, checked off
the things I was supposed to bring,
left my apartment early. The drive
east took me to the airport - and
into the sun.{
I checked in stand-by. No prob-
lems, but I just couldn't stop fidget-
ing. The Free Press I bought held my
interest for less than five minutes.
"Do you travel often?"
I looked up at the forty-ish woman
sitting next to me.
"I suppose so," I replied. "I mean,
I don't travel a whole lot, but I don't
mind flying."
I stared blankly at the Free Press.
I just wanted to be alone.
* * *
Strange, I thought, the stewardess
didn't bat an eye when I turned
down breakfast.
I had forgotten I was a pale young
woman on an early morning flight to
New York.
"Do you live in New York?" the
Venezuelan businessman next to me

noon, i
It was an hour until my appoint-
ment I couldn't get something to
eat, but I yearned for a place that
was quiet, where I could sit to pull
myself together.
I found a park bench near a
fenced-off basketball court, and
pulled out a piece of stationery.
"Dear Laurie,
"You might wonder why this let-
ter is postmarked New York City ..."
Noon approached and the construc-
tion workers started climbing down
from the skeletal structure down the
"Wanna go out to lunch?"
"Hey there-smile!"
It was time, I decided, to go in.
* * *
"CAN I help you," the receptionist
"Yes, I have a twelve o'clock ap-
pointment for an abortion."
"Go into that room and fill out the
forms I've indicated..Then turn them'
in to the cashier."
The medical history. The permis-
sion form - and those strange words
about "disposing of any tissues" that
may be removed. One after another,
different colors, until I came to the
personal questionnaire and T H E
"Please try to explain your rela-
tionship with the father ..."
I started writing, scratched it out,
tried again. It was impossible - I
couldn't explain it to myself. And on
paper, it couldn't help but sound
somewhat perverted.
I plastered a smile on my face'and
handed back the forms. It felt like
registration at Waterman-do I hand
in my ID here, my address cards?-
my money order, my medical history?


"I'd heard about that place
talked to women who'd been
place in New York,' so vague
more than a week later."

in New York, read about it,
there. Still, it was just 'that
a thing that I didn't call until

Apr ;;;g? :;:

a cheap New York hotel with her boy
"There, was one doctor down at
school who was really nice," she said,
twisting the fringe on her cut-offs.
"But then there was this other guy
who was really mean, who acted as if
I'd done something wrong."
Barbara had traveled from Ala-
bama, Mary from the East coast.
Both were swearing off sex until they
were married.
We talked about morning sickness,
throwing up, hiding from our parents
and friends, the reactions of the
One of the aides came out, to ex-
plain the "procedure," talk about
birth control and answer our ques-
And suddenly it hit me - they
were all more afraid than I was.
A wire-rimmed, corduroy-jeaned
attendant came out and called my
"Hi," she said with a smile. "My
name's Ruth and I'm your counselor."
We went into a room and started
discussing the procedure. She was
bouncy, bright, a veteran of two abor-
tions and two children.
And she was just what I needed.
"Tell me about the father."
I tried haltingly.
"What's his reaction been?"
"Well," I stammered. "I only told
him recently. He was sympathetic, he
said he'd come visit me."
"Look," she said sternly, "sympa-
thy's cheap. Has he doled out any
"He doesn't think he's responsi-
ble. He always tried to get me on the
pill, but my doctor had me on a dia-
phragm - we didn't have sex that
"Not bad advice," she observed.
"Look, he's not a doctor, and you
know it takes two to have a baby.
You're gonna confront him and make
him come up with some money,
"Right," I replied.
"I'll be back in a second," she said.
"Put on this gown and put your
clothas in the bag."
Ruth had won round one, I thought
as I undressed. She'd made me face
up to the one thing I'd been unable
to-his lack of commitment.
She was ready for me and I wad-
dled out in the hall, holding together
a gown that wouldn't tie in the back.
"Nice ass," she quipped. "Ah, but
that's what got you here, huh?"
"How'd you guess?" I laughed.
SHE "FOUND us a room," I stashed
my bag and "emptied my blad-
der." Then I hopped on the table and
waited for the doctor to show up.
I tried to lay back and relax. It
was impossible.
"Boy, do I have something waiting
for you," I heard Ruth saying to the
doctor outside. "Tah-dah," she ex-
claimed as she opened the door.,
"After that build-up, doctor, I'm
afraid you must be disappointed," I
They moved quickly, explaining all
the noises, all the gold senations, all
the pinches. I was just one of the
100 abortions anday the clinic per-
formed, just one of the more than
250,000 abortions performed in New
York yearly. And like the majority

of women who have them I was
white, under-25, from out-of-state
and unmarried.
But I wasn't just another abortion
for Ruth and the doctor. They treat-
ed me with care, trying to make me
relax, trying to remove the fear.
He inserted the speculum, the cold
piece of metal. Then he clamped my
cervix and gave it a shot of nova-
caine. Ruth had me laughing so hard,
the needle must have jiggled in and
out a dozen times.
Then he inserted the aspirator -
the method the clinic uses only on
those women who are less than 12
weeks pregnant.
The bad cramps that Ruth had
prepared me for started.
"You've got them now, don't you?"
she asked. I nodded with a grimace.
"Sure you'd rather be somewhere
else," she tossed in. "Sure you'd rath-
er be in Central Park right now, run-
ning through the fields, getting
raped ..."


"No," I said sheepishly, "I'm just
visiting for a few days."
* * *
They know, I thought. They all
know. You give them the address on
62nd St. and they all know.
My cabbie was giving me a short
tour of New York-I didn't even
know where I'd landed. But all the
time, my eyes were on the meter -
I'd been warned about those un-
scrupulous cabbies who take advan-
tage of pregnant girls going to their
abortions, who are too upset to rea-
lize the fare's too much.
We got stuck in traffic two blocks
"Drop me off here, o.k.? And keep
the change," I said, shoving some
bills in his face.
"A lousy dime," he growled, "you
call that a tip?"
"Here, take this." I thrust some
more money at him, just wanting to
be rid of that man on that street in
* *~ *
THE CENTER for Reproductive and
Sexual Health, Inc. - the
Women's Medical Services - is hous-
ed in an unimposing building on a
hilly street near the East River. The
word "clinic" is over the door - the
only sign that the place is a hos-



"Now go through the double doors
to the lab."
The blood test was the only thing
that made it a hospital. Brightly-
colored modern paintings, mod furni-
ture, and carpeting warmed the
room, heartened my spirits. I re-
turned to a room of six very nervous
LIZ WAS a mother of, four from De-
troit, who was telling the group
that she simply didn't want a fifth
child. "They told me I could probably
wrangle an abortion from Mt. Sinai,
but I didn't want all the bother."
"I was also told they'd probably
make me get my tubes tied so I
couldn't have any more kids-but
darnit, I didn't want that."
She turned to me. "You were on
the 'plane from Detroit this morn-
ing. I was the person who spoke to
you, but I figured you wanted to be
left alone."
My heart went out to her, and I
smiled apologetically.
Kathy from Dearborn was also on
the plane-I'd picked her out, there
with a hippyish boyfriend and no
"I told my mother I was going to
Cedar Point for the day," she giggled
Darlene had come from Gaines-
ville, Fla. and had spent the night in


nitely about eight, weeks along by
the size and development of the pla-
centa, but there were no fetal parts."
"Did you hear the slurp as we tried
to get all the placenta?" Ruth asked.
As they cleaned up after the pro-
cedure, I wondered a bit if my baby
would have been normal-with lots
of placenta, but little development.
And I thought briefly of the people
who oppose abortion and show the
pictures of the fetuses in bottles.
I guess a jar of my jelly-like pla-
centa wouldn't fit into their spiel.
"I feel like I'm going to passout,"
I told Ruth. (I'd come to be familiar
with that feeling over the past few
"Well, there's no where you can
go," she replied. "You're already lying
A FEW MINUTES later, I was well
enough to walk to the recovery
room - a large room that reminded
me of South Quad - with fluorescent
lights and multi-colored sheets in the
"Sunflower" pattern.
Wearied, I lay down, but the lights
and a couple of girls talking kept me
from dozing. Instead, I massaged my
cramps, downed some orange juice
and felt sorry for Barbara.

with a cocktail and the new copy of
Tomorrow, I'll get up, I thought.
I'll eat breakfast and go about my
day just like I used to. Except I won't
take baths, or use tampax, or have
sex for two weeks. I'll be taking the
pill, but I'll still be me.
We landed on time and I looked for
a phone to call him.
There was no answer. Typical, I
thought, and I laughed.
I got my car, zoomed down the ex-
pressway. And I started singing "Hail
to the Victors" at the top of my
POSTSCRIPT: For personal reasons
I did not want my identity re-
vealed in this story. However, I did
want to share my experience with
women who may have to undergo an
,abortion and those who will not, and
with men who know little about this
"mystical" operation and even less
about women.
Fortunately, there are some places
in the United States where one can
go to terminate an unwanted preg-
nancy. Unfortunately, Michigan is
not one of them.
If I had been forced to have a

"I was just one of the 100 abortions a day the clinic
performed, just one of. the more than 250,000 !abortions
performed in New York yearly . . . (yet) they treated me
with care, trying to make me relax, trying to remove the


She had never even had a pelvic
examination and was now telling
Mary about her horror when the doc-
tor started inserting instruments into
her vagina.
Darlene was having a rougher
time-she had been just short of 12
weeks and had been lucky that they
could perform the procedure. I lay
back contented-and for a moment
actually fantasized that i was in a
maternity ward and they'd bring my
baby in any minute. t
An hour passed and Liz came in to
change back to street clothes. She
proposed we share a cab to the air-
port, I agreed.
I signed the release form, sat for
my blood pressure one more time,
said a cheery good-bye to the recep-
There was a cab waiting outside,
but I didn't mind. Liz and I discuss-

child at this time in my life, I would
have had to drop out of school, quit
my job, put back the plans for my
life for a few years. I would have'
caused my parents considerable
heartbreak, all because of a "crime"
I did not commit, the "crime" of con-
ceiving a child when I was not mar-
Because I was able to have an
abortion, I was able to continue liv-
ing without having to undergo severe
emotional trauma. For those who
would accuse me, of killing an un-
born child, I can only say that those
tissues which were removed from me
were not a child, that it would have
been a far greater crime for me to
bring a child into the world, who I
would resent for the rest of my life,
a child who would probably never
know its father.
I sincerely hope that when the


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