Mary’s Story

I am 76 years old and had 4 illegal abortions in my twenties. I was and am intelligent and a fast learner. However, I was ignorant of how to protect myself from pregnancy, was convinced that a man had every right to call the shots in a sexual encounter (Who was I to tell him to stop? Hadn’t I let him kiss me?), and was extremely fertile (I became pregnant using a diaphragm). That combination still exists even though abortion is legal and, if a young woman fits that description, she should contact Planned Parenthood and find out what the deal is.

I was extremely lucky that I was able to locate a nurse skilled in giving abortions in NJ for three of my abortions (she never told me about contraception but did take me to a doctor for a D&C) and a woman in Harlem who was also skilled. One abortion was done when I was 5 months pregnant. Another was done at the behest of my then-husband who informed me he didn’t want children. I was so totally relieved after each abortion and abstained from sex for months after each one. It took a friend of mine to clue me about Planned Parenthood where I was fitted for a diaphragm.

I have never had a moment’s remorse about any of these abortions. I had good reasons for each one. I still believe that raising children is an enormous responsibility that I am glad I postponed until I was mature and with a man I loved who also loved me. It was hard enough to raise children under these circumstances. I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had been forced to have 4 children!

What I really suffered from was my ignorance, passivity (the inability to say “no”) and my fertility. I think women still have that problem even though there is supposedly sex ed in school and abortion is legal. We are brought up to be obedient and to keep our sexuality repressed. It took me until I was 55 to truly enjoy intercourse with a male lover. I never thought of exploring my sexuality with a woman and only learned about oral sex with my boyfriend in my 60s.

It is so important to feel empowered in a sexual relationship and not be worried about one’s performance and “what will he think?” I urge anyone who is in this boat to free yourself from the attitude because who you are sexually is a large part of your life. Explore your sexuality with someone you completely trust who loves you.