Judith’s Story

It was 1959 and I was an extremely young 19-year-old. I was pregnant and could not tell a soul except the man involved. He wanted no part of it but at least gave me the $500 for an illegal abortion and then I was on my own. I can’t remember how I made contact, but I clearly remember driving to the New Jersey Palisades to a very exclusive apartment building overlooking the Hudson. The apartment was devoid of furniture but for a dining room table covered by a dirty sheet.

I was told to remove everything from the waist down except my skirt. I got up on the table and without benefit of anesthesia I was poked and prodded with what looked like medieval instruments of torture. A man held his hand over my mouth so that I would not scream. All the while, the woman who performed the abortion was humming “Try a Little Tenderness.” Strange thing to remember, huh?

She packed me full with gauze ribbon and told me I could remove it in 48 hours. I left, got into my car and drove 90 miles to spend the weekend in the country with my family. At several points I had to pull off the side of the road because of pain, dizziness and nausea. I lied to my mother…a stupid lie that she chose to believe.

The only emotion I felt during this experience was fear and the only emotion afterwards was relief. Relief that I did not have to have a child. Relief that I could continue with the plans for my future and wait until I was ready to have a wanted child. One thing I know for certain is that I don’t want anyone to have to experience the terror and loneliness that I did.

Today, I am the Vice President and Treasurer of the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP). We are a group of volunteers who raise money to give financial grants to poor women and girls across the nation who are otherwise unable to afford the choice of emergency contraception or a safe and legal abortion. The thank you letters we get from the women we have helped convince us that we are solving life problems one woman at a time.

I will not go back!