Continue to call for abortion rights law

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I had sex for the first time on April 9, 1965 between 6 and 7 p.m. Having straight sex with someone before marriage was still outside the norm, and I crossed the line from good girl to bad girl when I got involved in what was then considered illegal. In those years the fear of pregnancy was inevitable.

The daylight was fading, which made it easier because, like many other teenagers, I was uncomfortable with my body. I was 17 years old, a New York City high school graduate for intellectually gifted girls. My boyfriend, a freshman at Columbia College, was also a virgin, though he refused to admit it. I was scared, but it was something I wanted as badly as he did. We loved each other. Love was my first time criterion.

He had borrowed a friend’s apartment near the university, on 110th Street between Broadway and West End Avenues. When I look up from my bed, I remember the soot-encrusted window panes, the murky sandstones across the street. The details are unforgettable, not just because it was still something “nice” girls didn’t do, but because it’s a big deal.

After that, when the condom was nowhere to be found, panic overwhelmed any sense of achievement I might have enjoyed. The next day my boyfriend and I went horse riding to make sure there would be no pregnancy. Birth control pills were available, but a relatively rare option, especially for newbies like me. I couldn’t talk to my mother about that because she had a certain opinion about nice girls. Over time, a friend’s mother took me to a gynecologist and I was prescribed a diaphragm.

Over the years I switched to other means of birth control and always worried that I might get pregnant and I doubt I was alone because the threat remained real with no easy solution for those of us who grew up before Roe vs. Wade ruled on January 22, 1973.

I made a good friend during my freshman year of college, someone still in my life, and one evening she told me about her abortion. Carolyn Campora was a student at a Dominican convent boarding school for nice Catholic girls in California. Her first experience was with a close family friend who worked in the stable where she used to ride. Apparently, horseback riding wasn’t the prophylaxis I had thought for earlier.

Her father, though in many ways a stereotypical Italian padre, would take care of the problem, and he had the means. Precautions were made through his doctor, and her father drove her to Tijuana, where he was not allowed to cross the border with her. She remembers being pushed onto a yellow school bus with other women, being yelled at in Spanish, and arriving at a clinic where there was more yelling until an ether mask was placed over her face. Carolyn had just turned 16 and had no idea what was being done to end the pregnancy. Her Dominican school did not include sex education. For years she kept the feeling of sin and shame still. It wasn’t okay and you couldn’t talk about it.

Even today, the prevailing message for women is: “Don’t get pregnant”. And it’s our responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. Pregnancy is not always planned, no matter how careful we are. My friend had a second abortion after she became legal and she described the difference in her experience: “It was all easy. I was in a real hospital and was treated like a person. “

I think this is an easy choice for only a few people. It’s about life, whether you mark it six weeks or three months or some other point in time. But it’s a choice we sometimes make and have to live with. There is no doubt that this right is as much needed as it was when Roe vs. Wade was ruled. While the House of Representatives passed a bill to protect abortion law so it doesn’t get a “tie”, the Senate is unlikely to vote in the same way. So I was in Albany on Saturday, October 2nd, when marches were taking place across the country, to support and demand the passage of the Abortion Rights Act. And so these efforts must continue until then.

Nancy Jainchill of Woodstock is a writer and psychologist. www.nancyjainchill.com

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