Lily’s Story

It was 1962 and I was 16 years old. Abortion was not legal. I’d had a steady boyfriend since I was 14 and we didn’t really know a lot about birth control. When I discovered I was pregnant my best friend told me that she had overheard a way to induce a miscarriage. It involved not eating or drinking for three days, then drinking a glass of castor oil, and taking an extremely hot bath, and douching with vinegar. Well, I tried all of it, with her help, but it didn’t work. I went to my family doctor who had delivered me and my siblings, and he sadly explained that there was nothing he could do. So my boyfriend and I figured we’d have to get married. That meant I wouldn’t go to college and he would drop out of school to get a job.

Fortunately, my boyfriend told my older sister who had had three kids by the time she was 20 and she said “No way!” She arranged for me to have an illegal abortion. It was performed by an older woman whom I was told was a nurse. She was sweet and motherly. I was relieved that she was not some greasy looking male doctor. She inserted a catheter into my uterus, and a large tampon-like object to hold it in place. My sister was with me the whole time and it took place in the backroom of neighborhood medical office. Within several days I began to bleed. She called me to see if I was OK, and then said, “I never want to see you again.” It was only later that I found out that I could have had an embolism and died from that procedure.

I went on to go to college, to split up with that boyfriend, and to lead a very different life than I would have if I hadn’t had that abortion. In the 1970’s I became an abortion activist and also worked for several years as an abortion counselor.

I sometimes think of what my life would have been like – or what my child might have been like. But I have no regrets. I have one son, adopted. His birth mother considered having an abortion but changed her mind. That seems to close the circle somehow.