In 2004 at the one million one hundred thousand strong march in DC for Reproductive Rights were three women with a common enough family story of abortion (two in fact), pre Roe. Where their story was uncommon is the police photo of their sister, mother and grandmother, which had been publicised by Ms Magazine in 1973, as part of an article on abortion, rights and Roe.
Leona Gordon, 74, of Westmoreland, N.H., said she remembers when all abortions were illegal. She recalls what she went through in 1964, with five kids and a bad marriage, to get one. And she recalls what it was like, a few weeks later, to claim the body of her sister, Gerri Santoro, who died after one.
"Oh, here I go," she said, beginning to weep, as she said she does most nights.
Gerri Santoro was one of her younger sisters, bubbly and trusting, the mother of two girls by a man who abused her and them. They separated, Santoro had a relationship with another man and became pregnant. When she was more than six months along, her husband contacted her: He was returning to her Coventry, Conn., home in hopes of reconciling.
Let's back up for a bit, when Gerri Santoro separated from her husband, he had moved her and the children to California, the following is recollection of one of her daughters, text drawn from a 1995 documentary on Gerri:
Our first trip out from Connecticut, we had a station wagon and my sister and I would sleep in the back and we'd wake up in the middle of the night and the stars would be out all over the place and my mom would be driving along, still, just driving along. It was, it was fun, it was fun. She made a long, horrible trip, fun.
I vaguely remember her dancing in front, it must have been American Bandstand or something, in the living room with us. She had a green dress, I remember that.
She went out to a New Year's Eve party or something with this, to me, it still seems like the shimmering emerald green dress and it was tight and beautiful.
This, from Gerri's sister Leona:
Trying to be objective, it's pretty difficult when it's your kid sister. But I think while she was out there, she probably was beaten as many times or as much as she was when they lived in Connecticut. And from the sounds of her letters, she was
Again, from one of her daughters:
All kids want to believe that everything's OK. But I think
we saw enough, both my sister and I, to know that it wasn't really fun for
mommy. You know, it was just a game that daddy played and he liked it, but she didn't like it. And he did hurt her.
And so, as much as we wanted to deny it, when she was leaving, it wasn't like we questioned what was happening. We just kind of went along with it. We came home from school, and the car was packed. There was no playing, there was no phone calls, no saying good-bye to daddy, no saying good-bye to friends. It was in the car and we're going on vacation, we're going back to Connecticut.
From her closest childhood friend, Gerri had used the device of talking about a "friend" who found herself pregnant, until her friend saw thru it:
[A]ugust, that's when Sam was coming in. No wonder she had to have the abortion cause of Sam coming, that's about when the baby was due. She knew better. She knew it would kill you, she knew. But she was desperate. Sam would have taken the girls. I mean, back in those days, she would have never saw them again. But that's how desperate she was. Because Sam was coming back in August.
I don't think an hour went by and the two detectives came to the house and they wanted a name. And I remember one guy saying, one detective saying, she have many boy friends. And I said, she wasn't that type of person, and she wasn't. I mean, you know, there was only one name I could give and that was Clyde.
In desperation, Gerri and her lover had gone to a motel to induce an abortion, things went horribly wrong, Clyde panicked and left her to die alone.
I would feel better to think it was sudden and that she didn't have to lay there and be alone. But I don't believe that's what happened.
I believe she had some time to think. Because the way the rags were in her hands, you know what I mean, this was a woman who wasn't just sitting about and suddenly collapsed.
This was a woman who was in the throws of dying and was doing what she could to stop bleeding and stop, you know. From that picture, that's what it looks like.
Gerri Santoro's deadly induced abortion was pre Roe and she was pre Griswold as well, the forerunner that found for privacy rights for married couples to buy and use birth control.
I happened to see Henry Hyde (R-IL) today on the floor of the House. Hyde was the first public, elected, standard bearer in the chipping away, the war on poor women and federal funds used for abortion, barely three years post Roe. I am sure he was at the National Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.
The media, the Democrats (and a Judiciary Committee that failed, full court press, in front of us), right along with the Republicans, enjoy saying that Roe has been challenged and up held 38 times... That Justice Kennedy is likely the new soft center on the SC.
And if you are frightened for your future and the future of your children, you know talk of Kennedy being a new center, is just sleepy time talk. The elected leaders want us sleepy, mesmerised in fact.
Back alley and self induced abortion is occurring:
â€œMost commonly, they ingest a whole bottle of quinine pills, with castor oil...we try to get them to the ER before their cardiac rhythm is interrupted...Sometimes they douche with very caustic products like bleach. We had a patient, a teen, who burned herself so badly with bleach that we couldnâ€™t even examine her, her vaginal tissue was so painful....â€?
â€œOur local hospital tells me they see 12-20 patients per year, who have already self-induced or had illegal abortions. Some make it, some donâ€™t. They are underage or poor women mostly, and a few daughters of pro-life families...''
Canada approached over throwing their abortion ban in a different way from America, a crusading OB-GYN exploded the patriarchal system, defying the laws and enduring prison and trials. A Viennese Jew, a holocaust survivor of Auschwitz, Dr Morgentaler's crusade led, as of 1988, to there being no laws regulating abortion in Canada, it is between women and their doctors. Further, the Canadian rates of abortion run lower than America, year after year.
Women, given a chance, will care properly for themselves. Over and over, the patriarchal, theocratic societies (ours is that, more firmly entrenched everyday), in their perversity, refuse to trust (much less like) women.
Recently, William Saletan has published a NYT editorial on abortion (Star Tribune reprint).
Joyce Arthur, founder of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) answered him by letter. With permission, I use part of that letter, to honor Gerri Santoro, her daughters, sisters and grand daughter.
I believe Gerri's heart beat, a woman's, a mother's rising from the grave - the existence of that police photograph - says, trust women and leave it to them.
But it's essential to realize that women don't generally decide to have abortions because they think abortion is morally ok, or because it's their political right, or because they think the fetus is a meaningless blob of tissue. When it comes to abortion, the politics is separate from the personal.
Almost all women who have abortions do so because, essentially, they recognize the necessity of being good mothers, and that having a child (or another child) right now will undermine the welfare of themselves and their existing or future families. That is the true morality behind the abortion decision - the biological imperative to be a good mother - as well as the fundamental need to control one's own body and life (which is not an abstract right, but a sociobiological instinct).
Abortion is inextricably intertwined with pregnancy and motherhood - that is, good mothers will have both babies and abortions. They do so the world over, they always have, and they always will. Half of all women in the world will have at least one abortion in their lifetimes. The abortion experience is part of who we are as women, a fundamental element of our life experience, the means we use to optimize the survival of our families and ourselves.
Therefore, labelling abortion as bad is being judgmental against women's very essence. It denigrates our humanity. You are labelling women's behaviour as bad, when in fact it's just women being women.
When you say abortion is bad, you're literally saying that women are bad.
But not only is there nothing wrong with abortion, I assert that both childbirth and abortion represent what is most wonderful about women - our ability to give life and sustain life, and the freedom to control the circumstances under which it can best be done. Abortion liberates all of us, improves our lives enormously, and ensures our future survival. Abortion represents human power, freedom, and dignity - no other animal can control its fertility to the extent that humans can, and this allows us to control our destiny and shape the world around us. That ability to "play God," as it were, defines what it means to be human and elevates us above the animals.
Your premise that abortion is bad and should be reduced, lacks vision and fails to address the core issue. Which is - the American people do not trust or respect women as equal players in society, entitled and empowered to make their own decisions around their sexuality, ethics, and lives.
The bottom line is, if women were respected and trusted as equals, abortion would hardly be an issue at all.
*note the graph at the link for AGI, w/r/t timing of abortion, 9 out of 10 are first trimester. At greatest risk, not surprising, for a delay, is teenagers and those without funds.