New York Magazine has a really important article featuring seven health care providers who were abortion providers before, during and after Roe v. Wade.
It is eye-opening to read their stories. All these years later, it's easy to forget just how dangerous being an abortion provider was back then. It was eye-opening to me to discover that some churches and lay ministers actually had an Underground Railroad-like organization to help women get abortions.
“A few years later, I was asked if I would be willing to provide abortions by a multidenominational clergy consultation group in Texas. Pastors and priests from all sorts of denominations would refer women to me for abortions. I had a wife, small kids, and I had to decide whether I was willing to take on the risk. Of course, I said yes. It was a matter of conscience.
“The clergy people said, ‘If you’re ever arrested, we’ll testify on your behalf.’ I knew that wouldn’t do anything. If you’ve done abortions when they’re illegal, it doesn’t matter how many priests, ministers, and rabbis testify for you. If you’re doing something illegal and you get caught, you’re gonna have to face the consequences.
“It was organized like an underground railroad. I didn’t have direct contact with the patients until their appointments. The women would contact a member of the clergy who was one of the referral group. The priests set up the appointments. Only they knew who I was, and they were scattered across the country — Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, all over.
Dr. David Grimes recalls the dark days when women sought illegal abortions:
“Abortion in the U.S. has become a victim of its own success; an entire generation of Americans have grown up without seeing or understanding what the dark days of before Roe were like. Without understanding that history, you can’t fully appreciate what the right to choice means.
“When I was in medical school in North Carolina, I got a page one night to tend to a patient with a 106 degree fever. I assumed that number was made in error. It wasn’t. When I examined her I found a red rubber catheter protruding from her cervix. Another day, I was paged for a young co-ed in septic shock with barely any blood pressure. There was a fetal foot protruding from her cervix. The first had gotten an illegal abortion, the second had tried to do it herself.
And even after Roe, there were many threats:
“After Roe, we thought we’d won. We thought it was over."
“I remember back in the '80s, I was sitting on the exam stool with the patient in the middle of a D&C abortion. We were in a basement facility and heard this big noise coming from the ground floor, right above us. Fortunately, there were heavy steel-cased doors, but they had glass windows. An extremist group was using a telephone pole as a battering ram, trying to break through the front door.
“We could hear the breaking of the glass, the pounding against the door, our people were screaming. One nurse ran to call security. The other nurse was trying to calm the patient down. The patient was pleading with us not to leave her. She kept saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, please don’t leave me.’ I couldn’t leave; I had to finish the procedure. I said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll finish our job.’
I read these testimonials and I just burn with anger. Who ARE these nasty men to tell women they ought to die?