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I Was a Teenage Underground Abortion Provider

[cultural reference]

I was a not-quite-teenager, living in Texas, home of the big fight for a woman to make her own decisions about abortion, during the time leading up to Roe v Wade. My best friend's mom and older sister were members of an underground organization that operated illegally to provide both birth control pills and abortions for women who needed them.

It's difficult for anyone who didn't live through that time to realize that many women had to get permission from their husbands to practice birth control. Often they couldn't get this permission and so they went behind their husbands' backs and turned to groups like ours.

This group was a loose affiliation of women and older teenagers who obtained prescriptions for birth control pills and then donated all or part of their prescriptions to our group, where we repackaged them either as a few month's supply disguised as other pills [baby aspirin iirc] or as emergency contraception [six pills total, two pills to be taken each day for the three days following unprotected sex].

My best friend and I and even the older teens were considered to be too young to be trusted with the more sensitive missions, so we sat at the kitchen table counting and packaging pills. Sometimes the women who were donating their pills brought them to the house, other times someone in our group went around to the womens homes to collect them. Once packaged, the pills were delivered to their intended recipients, in many cases only after making sure the husband would not be home at the time that they were delivered.

What I didn't learn until I'd been packaging pills for some time was that the group also arranged abortions for some women. I never learned the details of how this part worked, but it was all very shadowy, and if you take some time to read the story of Jane, you can understand why.

So anyway I was just reading Violet's post that lambert pointed to below and got to this:

Simultaneously, women need to build an Underground Railroad of abortion providers and patient transportation (working with Planned Parenthood, for example) so we’re not just at the mercy of the goddamn Democrats. Enough with the blackmail!

and because I'm of the opinion that forewarned is forearmed, thought that I'd give you what little I can of firsthand reporting.

Meanwhile, I'd set up another such underground railroad again, in a heartbeat, if it becomes necessary.

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Submitted by lambert on

I just crosslinked it over there. (I'm also working through some of the themes we butted heads over; it is a "working session" after all ;-)

Submitted by hipparchia on

and you do good work.

i myself am always going to butt heads with anybody, male or female, who frames anything as 'helping women helps men too' or 'patriarchy is bad for men too' and a few other related themes [yes, this puts me in a minority].

as a practical matter for getting things done, i don't mind working with people who see life that way, but i grew up in what appears to be an extraordinary family, one where believing in full rights for women, or blacks, or hispanics, or whoever is just plain right, and that everyone should actively work for this outcome as a matter of justice, not because it "helps" them or "helps" some other group.

Submitted by lambert on

politics = values + interests + method

And each of the three, in practice, is always mixed up with all the others.

"Equal rights for all" makes me very, very suspicious, as I write over there, exactly because it seems to unanswerable. Is it even operationalizable? What happens when different constituencies have different concepts of rights? I worry that it will turn into a laundry list and thence rapidly degenerate into vacuity. As a question of method, "put women first" seems to have none of those issues. And Violet is right in that the "for all" movements have ended up compromizing women's issues away.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Thanks very much for sharing that perspective. It's so important for those of us who didn't live through it to hear about it first hand.

As Hillary recently said about the 60's, "Feminism was like a message from outer space." I really hope it doesn't come to that again.

Submitted by hipparchia on

she speaks the truth there.

i was fortunate to have grown up in a family that was both feminist and politically active or i would have sailed blithely and obtusely right through that era otherwise.

and yeah, i hope it doesn't come to that again either.