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[My comment on the Yahoo news story below: Sorry, Dr. Grimes: “In 1972, 24 women died from causes known to be associated with legal abortion, and 39 women died from known illegal abortions. In 1997, seven women died as a result of legal induced abortion, and none died as a result of illegal abortion. ” Source: CDC at

I also remember the abortion activists in the NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) in the early 1970s pushing for legalization by claiming that “5000 to 10,000 women a year” were dying from illegal abortion. (That is even higher than Dr. Grimes’ claim of 4 deaths/day from illegal abortions.)

I became an RN in the 1960s and I personally never saw the complications Dr. Grimes describes but I have met several women suffering with emotional and physical complications from LEGAL abortions.  Women-and unborn babies-deserve better. N Valko RN, 27 Sept 2015]

The Horrifying Reality of Abortion Before It Was Legal in America

Many of us have grown up in a time when we take for granted that abortion is legal. But older generations of doctors and women remember what it took to obtain an abortion before Roe v. Wade.  It wasn’t pretty. (Photo: Getty Images/Alberto Ruggieri)

With the topic of abortion emerging as a hot-button issue in the 2016 presidential race, many fear the possibility that it will again become illegal in the United States.

In the discussion surrounding women’s reproductive rights, what’s not being recalled is what life was like before the landmark Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade legalized abortion across America in 1973.

“The problems we’re suffering right now in the political arena are because people don’t remember what the pre-Roe days were like,” David Grimes, MD, a retired ob-gyn and clinical professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine tells Yahoo Health. During the 1970s, Grimes worked for the Centers for Disease Control as an epidemiologist on abortion-related projects.

“There is a generation not aware of the horrible conditions that existed pre-Roe. Abortion care has become a victim of its own success,” says Grimes.

Last week, Girls creator Lena Dunham and her showrunner, Jenni Konner, published a preview of their upcoming newsletter, Lenny, by asking their readers to #AskYourMother about life, and abortion care, before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the United States.

Their plea came after Konner asked her own mother, via email, to which her mother casually replied:

“Yes, in Mexico. On my birthday. It involved meeting a guy, holding sunglasses in my hand and driving 300 miles into Ensenada. I was sure I was going to die. But it turned out well.”
It’s difficult to calculate the exact number of abortions performed in the decade prior to Roe because of the reluctance of individuals to disclose data pertaining to an illegal activity.

Surveys from the 1950s approximate somewhere between 200,000 and 200 million abortion performed illegally each year in the U.S. Grimes says that, at this time, it is safe to estimate that four women a day died in America as a consequence of illegal abortion. “That’s a huge amount of suffering,” he says.

“I have seen women paralyzed for six weeks, stuck in a hospital. I have seen women in hospitals dying because of an abortion performed with antibiotics and not done correctly,” says Grimes.

As a resident at the University of North Carolina, he recalls being called in to see a woman in the emergency room who had a temperature of 107 degrees. She had a red rubber catheter hanging out of her cervix when he went to examine her. She was in septic shock as a result of an illegally performed abortion.

“But doctors younger than me have never seen these kinds of horrors,” he says of physicians who trained after 1973, when Roe became the law of the land.

The same can be said for any American born after the mid-1960s.
Now 72 years old, Ronnie Konner was 19 when she found herself pregnant by her “incredibly narcissistic” sculptor boyfriend. “He couldn’t have been less interested in me or my problem — or what he considered my problem,” she recalls. “Or going with me to take care of it.”

After overhearing a college classmate mention abortion, Konner was then able to secure a phone number. The person on the other end told her to go to the California-Mexico border holding sunglasses in her left hand — a sign to the driver that she was to be picked up and driven to Mexico for an abortion. The cost was $300.

Ronnie Konner made the drive to Mexico with two other women, one of whom was accompanied by her boyfriend. They all held sunglasses in their left hands.

Konner and the two other women were brought to the physician’s house for the procedure. The other two women were taken back first. “They came out,” Konner shared, “So I thought, ‘They lived’.”

[Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, September 23, 2015, ]