|BWS Stories - "Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be"...Times Have Changed|
"Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be"...Times Have Changed - Summer of Love Revisited
Carolyn Young is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from California who manages a hospital community based program for seniors. She also teaches at California State University, Los Angeles in the Graduate School of Social Work. The course that she most enjoys teaching is social justice policy.
Summer of Love Revisited
It was 1967. We called that summer of 1967 the “summer of love.” Those of you who were there remember why. I was 21, in my last year of college and would be graduating with honors in June. My plans were to go to college one more year so I could get my teaching credential and realize my life long dream of becoming a high school art teacher. I lived in a sorority house right on the coast of Long Beach with the ocean crashing below my front window.
I had come from a "good middle class family” (whatever that means) with a loving mother and father still intact, who always encouraged me to be the best I could be. I was bright, pretty, young, popular, and engaged to a young Marine. We would be married in 12 months when he got home from being overseas. What could be wrong with this pretty picture?
Vietnam was burning. I was pregnant. And I felt that I had no choice but to have an abortion. I knew my parents would be devastated and shamed with a pregnancy before marriage. Also, I would have no way of caring for a baby. The thought of dropping out of school was not an option. And there was always the nagging reality that my fiancée would come home in a body bag. Many of my friends did that summer.
My story begins in October of that year. I heard through the grapevine that a certain doctor would perform an abortion if he felt sorry enough for my situation. I made an appointment, went and guess what? He confirmed my pregnancy and told me to start taking prenatal vitamins! I was incensed. What would I need with prenatal vitamins?! Having a baby was not an option! Obviously, I wasn't pathetic enough for him to do something illegal. Next I went to a psychiatrist thinking that he might declare me insane. In those days you could get a legal abortion if that was the case. This time I wasn't crazy enough. Alas, my middle class upbringing made me too stable and sane for anything safe and legal.
Thus, I went to my brother who was more worldly and had money. I had heard that "these things" were very expensive. I had no money and already had to borrow money to pay for the doctor and the psychiatrist. My brother and I were not close, but he was willing to help me. He knew of a doctor who would perform the abortion for $600, an extraordinary amount of money for me in those days. I was very grateful for his caring. Some calls were made and the appointment was set for a Saturday in November. We were told to drive to Van Nuys Blvd. and Victory and wait in the coffee shop. We arrived early. I was scared beyond belief, but willing to die if necessary. I had to get rid of what I was carrying in my stomach!
Finally a man came in and sat down at our table. He ordered coffee. Did he think this was a friendly chat over coffee? I will never forget how overly friendly and cheerful he was. Only later did I realize why he was so cheerful. He would make an easy $400.00 that afternoon, giving the doctor only $200.00. Money exchanged between the man and my brother. As we got up to leave, I was told to get in his car. My brother was told to wait at the coffee shop. Not caring whether I lived or died, I didn’t protest and went with him.
We drove to a nearby motel, walked up the stairs, and into one of the rooms. If you have ever seen a bad movie set in a cheap motel room with broken shades and bad art on the walls, you have seen where I was taken by a man as seedy as the motel. He went in the closet in the bedroom where some flimsy short night gowns (“baby dolls” as we called them) were hanging. He told me to slip into something more “comfortable.” I said “no” and he accepted my answer.
He asked if I would like to play cribbage while we waited for the doctor. I agreed. I became irritated because he was so easy to beat. The minutes seemed like hours as I won game after game. I even tried to lose to break the monotony, but he was too bad a player.
Finally the doctor came. I looked up and thought I might be safe with him. He walked with an obvious limp and had a kind face. He took me gently by the arm into the bedroom, put a towel down on the bed, asked me in a kind manner to take my jeans off and lay down on the bed with my legs hanging over the side. I don’t really know what he did after that because I closed my eyes and prayed. I immediately felt a paralyzing pain rip through my body. I opened my eyes and saw the ceiling turn into waves of tile violently undulating, increasingly so as my pain worsened. No anesthetic, no sterile conditions, but it was over and so far I was still alive. I took that as a good sign.
He apologized for my pain and the whole barbaric situation that both of us had been forced into. He told me that his license had been taken away because he did abortions. He was forced to go underground to support his family. He felt strongly that woman should be allowed to have abortions, and better by him than someone with a coat hanger which was popular in those days. He eventually helped me up and gave me a pad. After telling me to watch for infection and hemorrhaging, we both walked out of the bedroom. The seedy man took me back to the restaurant where my brother was waiting. We drove home.
I lived to write my story, to give birth to a wonderful son, who gave me a beautiful grand daughter. I will do anything to prevent her from going through what I had to endure. It is now 2003, on the eve of Roe vs. Wade. Again women might be forced to fight for our constitutional right to have a legal, safe abortion. Taking away this right will not stop young girls from having abortions. As I have just told you, some will always rather die.