‘I have two stories to tell — one of an illegal abortion, the other legal’


To the editor: As a woman of a certain age, I have two stories to tell — one of an illegal abortion, the other legal.

Back in the 1960s, before birth control was easy to access, I became pregnant. The father was sent to Vietnam, and I was in college. I would rather have died than have the baby. If I could prove that I was insane, I could get an abortion. No luck. The psychiatrist said I was sane.

My brother helped me find an illegal abortionist and got the $600 together. We met the middleman in a coffee shop in Van Nuys. He made my brother stay and took me to a motel. He told me to put on a negligee while we waited for the abortionist. I refused.


Finally the doctor came. Thankfully he was very nice. He took me to the bedroom. With no painkillers, he did the deed. The pain was excruciating. The middleman paid him and took me back to the coffee shop, and my brother took me home. I needed follow-up care, but thankfully I was able to have a baby I wanted years later.

A marriage later, I became pregnant. Unfortunately, my birth control didn’t work. We were very poor and couldn’t afford another child. I made an appointment to have a legal abortion. I don’t even remember what happened because it was so easy and painless.

Unfortunately, now women will be forced into seedy motels, if they can even find someone to do it, or be forced to travel to a state like California.

As for me, I have no regrets. I raised a wonderful son, went to graduate school and was happily married for more than 30 years.

Carolyn Young, Glendale

A woman with short colorful hair holds up a photo of a younger woman smiling and lying on grass


To the editor: In 1979, I was seven months pregnant and extremely happy to have my second child. At an appointment, the ultrasound technician suddenly turned the screen away and picked up the phone to call the radiologist. I was sent to the head of obstetrics, who informed me that I was carrying a child with “no head.”

My baby was anencephalic and would not survive outside the womb. At that time, little was known about this condition, and a mother could carry such a child for up to 12 months before going into labor.

Two days later I had a therapeutic abortion. It was long, with constant, hard contractions every minute for eight hours. This day was the most traumatic in my life and led to a nervous breakdown the following month. I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my husband and 4-year-old daughter.

I have learned many things since this happened 43 years ago, including that some mothers wait to deliver so the organs can be harvested. I also learned that most parents were told that their child was born stillborn so they would not have to deal with the shock and horror that we endured.

When states began moving up restrictions on when abortions could be done, they did not consider that an amniocentesis, which checks for chromosomal abnormalities, is performed at 16 weeks. I considered myself fortunate to have had this happen during the enlightened time in our country’s history. I would ask any lawmaker today what they would do when the pregnant person in their family is told that their child has no head.


Kari Teeter, Valley Glen

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To the editor: In the 1970s I was a single mother with two daughters. A very nice acquaintance asked me to befriend his cousin, who was moving here from Argentina with his daughters. “Absolutely,” I said.

The man seemed pleasant, but he wanted more than a friendship, and I wasn’t interested.

One night, when my children were asleep, he knocked on my apartment door. When I opened the door, he forcefully lay me down on the couch and raped me. He left in a heartbeat, leaving me in shock.

I went to see my OB-GYN, who had delivered both my girls, and he diagnosed my pregnancy. I called my work and claimed to be sick, while my girlfriend took me to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for an abortion.


On the day of the abortion, a friend was in my apartment picking up some things that I had been storing for him. The phone rang. It was my boss, calling to see if I was OK. The friend told my boss that I had gone out to lunch with a friend (because, of course, my friend who answered the phone didn’t know about the abortion — nobody knew).

My boss assumed I lied and took three days off my paycheck, which totally horrified me, as I was a single mom supporting two children alone.

I can’t imagine the number of women who have had similar experiences. I always wanted a boy, but I would not have been happy having a child from somebody who had raped me.

Why are the men in this world the ones who make decisions about what women should do with their bodies? Women are the ones who suffer, while men are often responsible.

Sandra Kelemen, Palm Desert


To the editor: I’m a 72-year-old retired white female physician. I’m one of the women who heard and kept everyone’s secrets. Older women told me about dangerous and illegal abortions and younger women about their safe and legal ones. I heard about abortions from pro-life, pro-choice and apolitical women.

To the five cruel Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe vs. Wade: Do you think most Americans believe you have the moral character yourselves to take away the right of women to control their own healthcare, bodies and lives?

These five justices have decided that judges and politicians should be the ones who control women’s healthcare. As someone who spent years studying and practicing medicine, I believe these justices are practicing medicine without a license. Is that an impeachable offense?

Melanie Hinson, M.D., San Pedro

A portrait of a woman with glasses and shoulder length hair wearing a black shirt

To the editor: It was 1969 in Los Angeles. I was 20 years old. I went on a date that went badly. I was raped, but survived. I became pregnant. I did not want this child.


In desperation I turned to my mother, who turned to my brother. He owned a hair salon and knew lots of women. He got the name of an abortionist, and a few days later I was driving to Watts.

I miscarried after that. I was lucky to be alive. It negatively affected the course of my life.

Now that the constitutional right to an abortion has been taken away, I want to implore everyone, but especially young women who will be directly affected by this move, to act, to get involved, to vote and to organize.

Fight back. This is your fight. Please, let us not return to those draconian times.

Marlene Simon, Santa Fe, N.M.


To the editor: I am 76. I had an abortion when I was 22. I lived in Los Angeles, so it was easy for me to find a doctor to do it.

I remember the day of the procedure there were about six of us lying on rollaway beds at some place in the San Fernando Valley. Most of the others were young girls, maybe 16 or 17.

I have not regretted that choice not even once but have not shared it with others either because of the stigma attached to it. But I know that in this very repressive and scary time, it is imperative for people to come forward with their abortion stories, to give strength and courage to our sisters who are going to be facing so much hardship just to have autonomy over their own bodies.

Vicki Rupasinghe, Ojai

To the editor: In 1966, I was 17 years old and found myself pregnant by my boyfriend who left the state as soon as I suggested I might be pregnant. There was no abortion allowed.


An acquaintance who was a medic at a hospital said he could give me something that would terminate the pregnancy, but I was afraid to take it.

My whole life was turned on its head — no college, no experience for jobs and low-paid work to support my son. I was lucky, though, because as the daughter of a military man, I had assistance from my parents in case of emergency.

Thousands, maybe millions of women don’t have those advantages. And they will find themselves with no options.

I love my son and am so proud of the man he has become; he was able to go to college and get a well-paying job. He is a moral, good human being.

Contrary to our founders’ wishes, some Christians want to make this country a theocracy. So much for democracy.


Rita Skinner, Riverside

To the editor: I write now especially outraged about the possible loss of abortion rights for women.

Shortly after my husband and I married, and before 1973, I found I was pregnant. We were just starting our doctorate studies at the University of Wisconsin. We drove to Pennsylvania in the dead of winter for an abortion by a real physician, Dr. Robert Spencer, whose obituary later appeared in Newsweek and Time.

I have never regretted it, and of course we had two wonderful children, now adults, who know about this (as do their children).

Yes, it is time to stand up.

Karen Leonard, Los Angeles

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This letter was originally printed May 7 and is being republished here because the writer appears in the video.

To the editor: Shortly after graduating high school at 17 years old, I woke up to two detectives at the end of my hospital bed. I had just undergone emergency surgery after an illegal abortion.

My abortion took place in my boyfriend’s kitchen, where I sat with my feet on two chairs as the woman who stole the instruments from the hospital where she worked performed the illegal abortion.

One week later, I was rushed to the hospital, where I woke up to the two detectives at the end of my bed. They informed me that if I did not help them put this woman behind bars, I would become a ward of the state until I was 21, and my boyfriend would be sent to prison for statutory rape.

Both of us went to court to testify against her.

The idea that 55 years later, women across this country could find themselves in this position sickens me. We cannot allow the right of a woman to choose what happens to her body to be taken away.


Rhonda Papell, Los Angeles

A portrait of a woman with short blonde hair and glasses wearing a gray collared shirt.

This letter was originally printed May 7 and is being republished here because the writer appears in the video.

Photographs by Trevor Jackson / For The Times