I am choosing to republish this diary which I posted last year upon the rapid-fire installation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of The United States. (Thank you, help desk.) My pre-Roe story is a bit out of the ordinary but illuminating, nonetheless, I think. The draconian business has many dark sides. We will see continued furtherance of injustice toward women’s control of their own bodies due to religious ideology that cannot pretend to connect with the realities of science, let alone the absurdity of the government reach into the uterus by justices who claim to be incensed by “activist” judicial rulings. There are no such laws governing the reproductive organs of men, so, indeed, it is exclusively a burden placed on women, though the injustice really affects us all in the end. The court is not balanced and justice is accidental without it. A counterweight is requisite.


I cannot fathom how many unwanted children were delivered before pregnancy termination was legal and accessible. Surely lots made the best of it, but surely many did not.  There are so many stories of back room abortions; we all know those tragic tales. They are not the only illustrations of the grotesque collateral damage caused by criminalizing a gynecological procedure.

Lately, I have spent an inordinate amount of time remembering that era before Roe v. Wade allowed a woman to have agency over her own body. I have two daughters. I have a young granddaughter. Their choices must be their own with their physician. They ought not be constrained by a Supreme Court populated with religious supremacists. Women must not be put back into their chastity belts.

I dislike the term “packing” the court. SCOTUS must be expanded, certainly, presuming the far right [without exception, all abortion is an abomination] ideologue Coney-Barrett is shoveled onto the bench by Mitch and Syndicate. I do presume so, unless the current SarsCoV2 outbreak at the WH somehow alters the landscape and takes down a Trumpublican Senator or five. It must be expanded when we regain control of the WH and hopefully, both houses of the legislature – for balance. It will not tilt. It will even out. Rectification will be necessary.


This is my story. It’s one of the many millions of stories.

In the historically impactful year of 1968, I was the last of my cohorts to become sexually active but the first to become pregnant. I tried to get birth control pills with that first intimate relationship (they had recently hit the scene) but was unable to obtain them because they could only be dispensed to married women [yes, that’s true!!!]. The year would have been even more historic for me personally if CNN had existed at the time when I became pregnant by my high school Drama teacher at the outset of my senior year. I lived in smalltown New Jersey where no secrets were kept for long. Termination of the pregnancy was out of the question, although a very few states permitted the procedure to save the life or mental health of the mother; New Jersey was not one and my Dad would have signed no permission documents if it was. We were not wealthy. We were not connected. There would be no flights to Puerto Rico (standard fare for those in the know), Cuba was no longer an option. Connected sorts on the west coast went to Japan.

I was 17 years old and my life was about to change in ways that made my blood run cold. I already knew that I did not love this young man and I really did not want to spend my life with him. My father had other concerns, “Will he marry you!?!” He would. I’d already realized I wanted to get back to regular goofing around with my teen-aged buddies and deep six the top secret relationship but the fates and the designs of men making and executing laws, had other plans. We were married. I was expelled. He was fired.

For some many weeks I plowed through life in a removed sort of state. I just wasn’t really all there. I was constantly distracted with worry and anxiety and depression. Some of the financial stress was alleviated when he replaced a teacher in another district who had left mid term though it didn’t lift me emotionally. I was much disconnected and shunned for the scandal. I was afraid and conflicted with anger. I knew the gestating tissue was not responsible and if I was to be a mother, how could I blame it? I was the oldest girl in an Irish Catholic family and had had plenty of experience diapering and burping. I could do it. I had to. There was no choice.

His parents flew in from Germany to meet us. I prepared dinner for them at our place in a dead panic. I was not accustomed to throwing dinner parties, let alone for people who were instant family. It was horrifying. His father was a lifer in the Army who barked commands like he was training unruly animals. His mother was…oh, dear,…in the Temperance Union!, an organization that I thought had long disappeared in the 20’s. His Dad was retiring and they were moving back to the States in 4 weeks, they were traveling on to hometown Scranton to buy a house before going back to pack up their gear in Europe. After that, we went to stay with the in-laws to meet the rest of the family. I actually remember a lot of that – his warm extended family of Italians were pretty terrific toward me, except they found me to be too skinny. My mother-in-law did not like it that they brought their homemade wine to her home for family meals and never failed to spy an unattended glass to grab and hoist over her head as she marched through the crowd to the sink to dump it from on high while running the garbage disposal. I was going to be around her a lot more than the Italians. I was miserable and despondent.

Around Thanksgiving time, I began to have violent abdominal cramping. I started to bleed. I did not have a doctor yet. I had no insurance. He had no insurance (3 months for coverage to begin at the new job). I tried to call him at the school a few times asking that my message to call home be delivered urgently, dial-up landline being the only tool for communication. No call, and the bleeding wasn’t stopping. I started to feel chilly and tired but didn’t want to soil the bed. I folded a sheet under me and closed my eyes. Eventually, I was being woken by my husband who was shaking me. I’d passed out. The sheet was soaked in blood. He got me into the car and took me to the nearest ER. They would not let me come in. It was a private hospital and I had no insurance. (This, too, was a legal practice then.) At the next hospital, they let me in. The first thing that had to be done was to establish whether I had already miscarried. Nope, I was still pregnant, in spite of all of that blood which was continuing to flow. So, I was “packed”. My vaginal canal was stuffed with gauze soaked in medication. The crowning glory of the adventure was that we were sent home with plastic gloves to use to examine large clots that I might expel. If there was a fetus-y blob – maybe an inch and a half/ two inches – we could come back (with the evidence) and they’d perform a legal D&C. We found a lot of clots but who knows what they were, we didn’t know. We were brave to do that, I now think, as we dutifully plowed through those days of attention to a sad bloody mess. He accepted his part in it, that’s for sure. We both knew I was in dire straits, too, but I was out of it and didn’t much care about that. In retrospect, I do not think I had very much empathy then for that young man who had turned 22 less than two months prior to our task. He must have been terrified, thinking I might die, on top of everything else. I thought of him as more mature than I was at the time, I did not perceive that he was a frightened kid.

Some days later, I had a negative pregnancy test when we explained we had nothing to “show” the doctor from the hospital but I was still bleeding. I had the D&C that they were legally permitted to perform then, when there was no normal to return to and “all over” wasn’t to be had.


I want no other young women to have to live with such barbarous restrictions. They are brutal, cruel and mean to those who are undeniably alive and viable on the earth drawing breath; sometimes only children themselves. They need choice for an optimum chance to be healthy and to offer the same to all other viable human beings who emerge on the planet.

The Supreme Court must be expanded to ameliorate this coming setback to appropriate civil rights that include a woman’s control of her own body and her own life, should this appointment be confirmed, and to ensure affordable insurance coverage to manage any type of legal healthcare, as well. I know what packing is, appointing even minded justices beholden to sound settled law isn’t it. Balance is what we’re interested in. We must find it, one way or another. My daughters deserve it. My granddaughter deserves it.  You and your daughters do, too.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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