The First Time Women Shouted Their Abortions
Fifty years ago, a group of women stood up in a church and talked about ending their pregnancies. The way they did so still shapes how we discuss the topic today.
By Nona Willis Aronowitz
March 23, 2019
You couldn’t just casually threaten suicide — you had to sound like you meant it, the woman onstage recalled. “You have to go and bring a razor, or whatever: ‘If you don’t tell me I’m going to have an abortion right now, I’m going to go out and jump off the Verrazzano Bridge.’”
The woman was speaking in 1969. Legalized abortion nationwide was still four years away; in New York, so-called therapeutic abortions were legal — but only if a doctor judged you mentally unfit to have a child. And so, the woman explained, she ended up seeing two psychiatrists who, to her relief, deemed her suicide threats real enough to be granted the procedure. The crowd clapped and roared at the absurdity of it all, until the woman explained that after her abortion, she was stuck in the maternity ward to recover — right next to crying babies. The crowd wasn’t laughing anymore.