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“Sofia” is in her mid-seventies now and lives in the Sacramento area. This happened in the late 1960s, about five years before the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion:"

    “I had a child who was three or four when this happened. It has been so long that I don’t remember, exactly. I worked for the state and had a part-time job as a cocktail waitress to make ends meet. I began dating someone who was nice enough, although I didn’t look at him as a permanent fixture in my life.
    I was taking birth control pills, but, occasionally, I forgot to take one, and I would take two the next day. I never got pregnant….until I did.
    To say I was upset was an understatement. I could barely afford to care for the child I had. I was also worried about what my mom and grandparents would say if they found I was pregnant out of wedlock.
   The ‘father’ wanted us to get married, something I had not even entertained. We were both in our early twenties, and he still lived at home with his parents. I went to meet his parents, who were very nice. But I watched his mother follow him into his room and pick up some discarded piece of his clothing.
This transported me to a future scenario where he would expect his wife to assume similar duties, taking care of him. I immediately knew, without a doubt, that I would not be marrying him.

   Meanwhile, I’d heard that taking a whole month’s supply of birth control pills would cause a miscarriage. Not true, but it will make you deathly ill.
   Next was the hanger remedy. I did try, but it really hurt.  I knew that I would not be able to place it where it needed to be without possible doing irreparable damage to my body, so I gave up on that solution.
    Then came the talk of (surgical) abortion. Several doctors in San Francisco were being prosecuted for performing abortions, and paranoia was rampant.
    I got some information with a list of doctors in Mexico who were performing abortions for American women, and there was a code word to use when calling. I was given a date and told I should call again when I got to Chula Vista.
   A friend accompanied me because the ‘father’ said anyone who had an abortion was not someone he wanted to assist or associate with.
   When I got to Mexico, I called the number, as instructed, and was told to go to the local mall. I would be wearing a blue coat but had no description of the doctor. I went to the mall, waiting and waiting for what seemed like forever. I was afraid to find a phone to call them and worried the doctor had changed his mind.
   Finally, a white Citroen drove by more than once. Yes, he was the doctor. My friend and I nervously got into his car. He offered me two choices: I could drive with him back across the border to his clinic, after which we were on our own to get back. Or we could use the apartment of a friend of his, and he would drive us back to our motel afterward. I chose option two.
   We went to the apartment, and my friend waited on the couch in the living room. I followed the doctor and his friend into the bedroom. They gave me ether and told me to count backwards from 100. The last thing I remember is saying that I didn’t think it was working.
    I woke up in a lot of pain. The doctor told me I had a massive infection – and I did not mention the hanger. But the procedure was not complete, and they didn’t want to give me more ether.  In pain, I had made enough noise that when we went into the living room, my friend was crying.
   After it was over, I handed the doctor an envelope containing $400, but I don’t recollect where I got the money. The doctor gave me antibiotics for the infection, and the three of us left. The doctor dropped us back at the motel, and that was that.

****

Sofia’s story from pre-Roe days is not unusual, and, despite the dangers, it had a much safer outcome than many. If the Supreme Court guts or overturns the Roe decision later this year – as many expect – this frightening past could come rushing back to the present.

Tags: roe v wade, pre-Roe, Abortion