Susanna’s Story

I am 85 years old, and a lifelong Republican. I am a lawyer and former Assemblywoman Constance Knowles Eberhard Cook was one of my bridesmaids. (She is the one to whom we all owe thanks for the decriminalization of abortions in New York.) In 1957 abortion was illegal here, but I lived here and here is where I found myself in a shaky marriage and pregnant. I had a son and a daughter and no wish for more.

To have an abortion I first I went to a Brooklyn office where abortions were performed, as I learned, without anesthesia under dubious sanitary conditions. After a pelvic exam the abortionist and I parted company. I knew I had other choices, because I had savvy and money. I also knew that poor women often died of the infection caused by self-help abortions with slippery elm branches and other, similar means. (Subsequently, as a law guardian for teenagers, like thirteen-year-olds, I learned the high cost of unwanted pregnancies and unwanted babies, about which the pro-lifers do absolutely nothing.)

After a bit of research, I booked a trip to Castro’s Cuba. I wore a girdle then and I sewed four hundred dollars into it for that was the price of an abortion in a clinic. I stayed in a hotel in Havana, where I had stayed once before. It had a fine restaurant and I had a fine meal, went to a night club and next morning I arrived at the clinic, with my girdle and money. A nurse told me to geton the operating table, a physician gave me a sodium penthathol shot and next I knew, someone offered me the best cup of coffee I ever had in my life. I got on a plane and landed in Fort Lauderdale where my then husband was recuperating from a major back operation which he had had in Cleveland.

In all these years I had no more regrets than I did for menstruating once a month, or for taking a client’s daughter to Mexico for the same procedure. I get into a helpless rage when I go by the Planned Parenthood office in front of which march old men and women with signs “abortion is murder” or abortion “kills babies”. Abortions save the lives of many women and a fetus (which is not a baby) was not considered alive even by the Catholic Church in the 19th Century, until the mother felt kicking. Every time I menstruated I “murdered” one half of a potential offspring.

My abortion was a great relief to me. The only time I think about it is when I find horror stories of regret, none of which I believe.