What Having an Abortion in 1959 Was Like
Saturday morning, March 7, 1959
An icy rain pelted the Grand Concourse, so I waited in the vestibule of the apartment building for the taxi. From the rear window, the woman gestured for me to hurry, and I ran across the sidewalk without an umbrella.
I had only been to the Bronx a few times. I had no idea where I was.
The cab stopped at a high-rise apartment building. My escort brought me to the 12th floor and left as the door opened. A fiftysomething blonde woman invited me into the well-furnished apartment.
I could see into the dining room, the table covered with a white sheet. “First things first,” she said. “Do you have the money?” I handed her the cash and she counted it: five $50 bills. More than I earned in four weeks.
A tall man came toward me, managing a weak smile. I had been told he was an Italian doctor waiting for American licensing. He only knew my first name; I referred to him only as “Doctor.”
The abortions are part of my own history, and that of our 55-year marriage. I have no regrets about them, no wistful wondering of what might have been. Our children are grown now, and we have eight amazing grandchildren. They live in a post-Roe v. Wade world, and have access to effective, affordable birth control. I’ve told them all the story of my abortion; to me, it’s a matter of life and death. I think about the girls I watched die in 1958, their families, the lives they never lived. I think about the button I wore in 1970: Never Again!