I helped women get abortions for 28 years — through protests and shifting rules
By Joan Finn-McCracken
May 25, 2018
Joan Finn-McCracken is a former teacher and nurse practitioner. She was a director of Planned Parenthood clinics for 32 years.
One of the first patients who came to our family-planning clinic in Billings, Mont., newly opened in 1969, sought help after she and her boyfriend had hitchhiked 500 miles from Billings to Colorado to terminate a pregnancy. Colorado was one of the five states where abortions could be legally obtained. They had heard about Colorado through his older sister, and were able to borrow enough money for the procedure but not enough for a bus ticket. She was 17, unmarried and so desperate to return home before anyone missed her that she did not stay for her follow-up appointment. Now she came to us for follow-up care, as well as birth control.
Although I was the mother of five children and a graduate of the Duke University School of Nursing, and had taught in two nursing schools, I knew little about abortion. Our patient was afraid to go to her family doctor because she was not sure what was legal or illegal. And neither was I. But I did know we could not prescribe her birth control — it was against the law for anyone under 18.