Serena’s Story

I was 19 in the spring of 1970. A freshman in college, the pill was brand new. I got pregnant the first time I had sex with my boyfriend. I had to go to an OB/GYN office in Scottsdale for a pregnancy test. Most of the women in the waiting room were quite pregnant. After the test, when I called the clinic, the doctor said “Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Would you like to make an appointment for prenatal care?” There was no way I was going to have a baby. I always felt in control and it was my life so my boyfriend and I started asking questions.

A friend of my boyfriend had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. They had found a “guy” – a former medical student, supposedly. His girlfriend lived in an apartment by herself so they arranged for this guy to do her abortion. She said he showed up at her door one night, took her into the bedroom, inserted a catheter into her uterus and then left. She had a miscarriage the next day in the toilet in her apartment. Sounded awful to me so we looked for other options.

A fellow student at Arizona State told me that a sociology professor would give you information about abortion. I went to his office and he gave me an address. He said to send them $5 and that they would send you information on where you could get an abortion. I sent the $5 and they sent me a list of information, about 5 or 6 pages long via a new mail service – overnight delivery. I got it in a couple of days from somewhere in New York state. The organization that sent it later became NARAL and I’ve been a member ever since.

I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint them or be pressured to get married and have a baby. I wanted to be in charge of my own life. I never considered that having a baby at that time was in any way a reasonable option.

As I recall, abortion was only legal in NY – pretty far from Arizona. But it was available in Mexico only a few hours away from Tempe. I called the clinic in Mexico and with my rudimentary Spanish made an appointment for that coming Saturday. A friend of my boyfriend was going to drive us down there, but he got drunk and was thrown in jail the night before. So my husband borrowed a car from his grandfather and drove me down there.

I had a D&C with general anesthetic in a clinic just over the border from Yuma, AZ. When I awoke and went to the toilet it was a beautiful place, very clean. It looked like a resort motel. They gave me some antibiotics and cautioned us to buy some souvenirs before we walked back over the border. At the time it was not legal for American women to have abortions in Mexico, but it was legal for Mexican women. We took another woman with us through the border checkpoint because she had come by herself. We then walked back to our car and drove home.

I started hemorrhaging about a week later and went to my family doctor. Stupid of me because he was quite Catholic and, I found out much later, very much against abortion. He examined me, told me I’d lost almost ½ my blood and sent the nurse out of the room. He then asked me if I were pregnant. I assured him I wasn’t, laughing to myself. I had a transfusion and, I think, some drugs to stop the bleeding. After that I was fine.

I ended up marrying my boyfriend, though we divorced several years later. He and I remain friends to this day. When Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the US I rejoiced. It makes me crazy that men, who control so much of our legal system are the ones who have the power to decide women’s reproductive rights. I was in a demonstration in Washington DC in 1988 (I think) for abortion rights and hundreds of thousands of women demonstrating for their right to have a safe, legal abortion. The best saying I heard and saw on posters was “Keep your laws off my body”.

I have had a wonderful life and have never regretted having that abortion. The only regret is that I had to go to Mexico and could have died if the doctor had punctured my uterus or if I’d had an infection. D&C is riskier than the procedures developed later and I was forced to have one in Mexico. Women will always have abortions, whether it is legal or illegal. They always have. They always will. My decisions about my body and how I will live my life concern no one except myself. I have never had any children and don’t regret that at all.

I now live in Denver, CO and volunteer at a clinic where protesters (mostly men) picket. We walk with the women who come for abortions from their cars to the clinic. At least I wasn’t subjected to the fear and intimidation that is the stock in trade of those lunatics. I usually remind the women that 100% of those men will never get pregnant and really have little understanding of childbirth or child rearing.