My mother, who passed away in 2011, shared with me her story of an unexpected pregnancy at the age of 21, a boyfriend who wasn’t ready to be a father, and an angel on her flight to Puerto Rico to get a back-alley abortion.
My mother worked for an airlines and in late 1965 became pregnant. She says she heard from flight attendants that there was someone who could perform an abortion in PR and as an employee, she could fly free. She was seated next to a woman and they began talking. Sensing my mother’s fears and emotions, the woman was somehow able to coax out of her the purpose of her visit.
When my mother told her where she planned to go for her abortion, the woman, familiar with this area, was horrified. These were not trained people but rather a money-making “service” where many women were harmed or died. When they landed, my mother said the woman, who was also a nurse, took her to a doctor who performed her abortion safely.
My mother told me she wishes that the abortion had not been part of her story. She loved her boyfriend, and had he been ready to be a father, she would have brought the pregnancy to term. As someone who is deeply spiritual, like her, I struggle personally with abortion; however, I recognize that my mother may have died had a compassionate healthcare professional not intervened.
My mother went on to marry someone else and had three daughters. She also had a life of dedicated service as a nurse herself, and worked in drug and alcohol treatment and later Hospice care as an administrator. I am fairly certain her life improved the quality of the lives of others; I also know she managed to save several lives over the course of her own.
Making abortion illegal does not prevent abortion. When I read the statistics about abortions in the same year as my mother traveled for her own, I was astounded at not only the number of abortions performed by unqualified people in the U.S., but also the number of self-induced abortions that ultimately killed women. Women without resources will impacted even more if unable to travel to states that may preserve abortion rights.
I hesitated to share my mother’s story since I do not have her permission in her passing; however, I think if she were here, she would want Roe v. Wade to remain in place so that no other young woman came close to the potential peril she avoided with the aid of another compassionate woman.