This story appears in a downloadable booklet published by My Body, My Life.
I was 21 years old the first time I experienced an abortion. My main method of contraception at that time was the cap; although I did have ‘adventures’ when I wasn’t always ready with my cap and that did cause me to worry. In those situations the best I could do for contraception was the cold douche method, because there was no one really to talk to about these things.
So, I was 21 and living in America when I became pregnant by my boyfriend at the time. We were in a very intense and active relationship, and often used the withdrawal method for contraception. But by the time I knew I was pregnant he had left the country, so I went to have a backstreet abortion.
This woman pushed something up inside me, and I didn’t really know what was happening, it was terribly black market. A couple of weeks later I was at work and I suddenly experienced incredible pain and bleeding.
What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was miscarrying. I went to hospital, and came out not really taking anything in, that I’d had an abortion or miscarriage. My boyfriend was gone abroad, and I felt very alone. I had nobody to talk to.
The next time I had an abortion was in London in 1962. I had a boyfriend at the time, who was very supportive and concerned. We didn’t know what to do, and we didn’t have much money. All we knew was that we were desperate and had to end the pregnancy.
He and my flatmate together resorted to using the coat-hanger method, to pierce my cervix. I don’t remember if I felt pain or bleeding, but I do remember feeling humiliated that she had to be a part of this awful thing. That’s how I ended up in an isolation hospital for fever patients in Coppett’s Wood, I wasn’t told it had anything to do with abortions.
I remember this beautiful young female doctor came to me and asked me what had happened, trying to get information out of me. I didn’t want to involve my boyfriend or my flatmate so I just kept quiet.