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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: Abortion, roe v wade, pre-Roe

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