I had just turned 15 when my closest friend, (for the purpose of this blog, I’ll call her Sharon) came to me and told me that she was pregnant. Sharon was a couple of years older than I was and brilliant (she later went on to become a nuclear physicist at a major eastern university).
Her family was dirt poor, no father, an unstable alcoholic mother. She was so smart and all she needed was to look at her mother and see one possible sliding door to her future. One she didn’t want to pass through. She had big dreams and had worked hard for them.
She didn’t want to have the baby. Yes, she could have given the baby up but it would have meant giving up her dream of the only person in her family to make it out of its collective drunken stupor. Did I mention she was brilliant? She, at seventeen, had been bright enough to excel throughout school and earn good scholarships that would get her out of the miserable family life she had endured for so long. She had more than enough credits to graduate and begin her first year at a good school.
Then she found out she was pregnant. We knew abortion was illegal in Montana (it would not be legal until Roe v. Wade’s landmark decision that Montana had to legalize abortion).
When she asked me to accompany her to a doctor she’d heard of that was 300 miles away (Montana is a BIG state), of course I said yes. I would never allow a friend to endure something so horrible by herself—and abortion is a horrible thing. No one is “pro-abortion.” Pro-choice is the right word selection because abortion is heartbreaking. I know it was for her but she felt she had no other options.
We set out hitchhiking one day and made it to the town by nightfall. As soon as we got there, they were ready for her.
I looked around. This looked like no doctor’s office I’d ever seen. It wasn’t an ‘office’ but someone’s home. It was dingy looking but I couldn’t really tell how filthy it was until they turned on the lights.
It was filthy. I grabbed Sharon’s arm and said I thought we should go. I said, “Let’s go to a state where it is legal.”
She shook her head. She had to do it now or she wouldn’t be able to. She followed a man and a woman to a back room. I don’t know what went on back there but it was almost three hours later when she returned, looking pale and wan—as if she might pass out. I figured she must have been sleeping for a couple of hours because it took so long. It wasn’t so. The abortion—or whatever horror they put did to her– lasted three hours.
We’d planned to check into a motel and we got there late. Had to wake the desk clerk. Everything seemed as though it took hours. My friend was in agony. I saw the crotch of her jeans was dark—whatever pad they had given her, it wasn’t enough.
When we got to the room, Sharon was bleeding profusely. I put a towel between her legs and within a minute or two; I knew I had to call an ambulance. I wasn’t that smart at 15 (nowhere near as smart as my friend who lay bleeding to death) but I was intelligent enough to know that my friend might die and that I had to call, even if it meant that I would never be able to leave the house again until I was an adult.
Thankfully, the ambulance got there quickly. One of the medics gave me a solemn look and told me I’d likely saved her life.
That was what abortions were like back in the mid-1970 in Montana. Abortion was illegal. Women didn’t stop having them though—they just went through the hell my friend did, who was left hemorrhaging, nearly losing her life and losing her ability to ever have a child.
We must never go back to those times again.
Because women will still get abortions but they will be of the kind of monstrosity I described.