Jan’s Story

It was 1969. I was 21. A year later New York would legalize abortion and, of course, Roe arrived in 1973. But I was stuck. The sex was consensual, and we were both equally idiotic about taking precautions against an unwanted pregnancy. So mine is not a story of rape or incest but of youthful arrogance. We were broke college students at an elite university, scholarship students among the one percent. Thanks to my leftist feminist activist friends, I was directed to an organization where I could arrange for a safe abortion, though it was expensive and required a lot of steps to make sure I wasn’t an agent who would turn them in. I didn’t believe I could tell my parents. Without family resources, I had no idea where I’d get the money. Just as I was about to begin the process, I got a phone call from a woman I barely knew. I don’t know how she found out I was pregnant but here is the moment that changed my life. The woman who called, let me know her mother was an ob-gyn at a local hospital. I learned that under the state law, if I could prove I was an unfit mother, I could have an abortion in a hospital. I was neither superstitious nor religious and had not the least compunction about labeling myself “unfit.” Neither did the psychiatrist and whoever else signed my papers. In my case, my student health insurance paid for the D&C. In general, the hospital was not an option for poor women since the operation was ridiculously expensive if you didn’t have insurance. In the same year, friends of mine were maimed by back-alley butchers and other women died. I am aware that I lucked out. I think some people find my story annoying because it’s all about privilege. I am not sorry I had a safe abortion. I’m not even sorry I took advantage of privilege when I found out I had it (at least for a short time). But I am angry that every woman can’t have a safe, affordable abortion when they need it.

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