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My Abortion Story & What's Next
We all have a story.
I had an abortion in the 1970s. The man I was with was the love of my life, but we were not meant to marry.
I went to the Upper East Side clinic, and I paid 100-and-something dollars, which I did not struggle to amass. Lucky me.
The room was clean, looked like a hospital room with a window filled with light, and a lovely nurse held my hand and sat next to me the entire time. The doctor came in wearing a mask and was patient and kind. He was adept, quick and exuded competence. He explained what was about to happen, and made me feel like I had a right to be there and that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had a thick accent I’d never heard before, and I wondered where he was from. I didn’t say anything. Afterward, feeling relief after a few weeks of panic, I ate the Lorna Doone cookies and drank apple juice from a small can, and I felt so much better. Relieved. Safe. I never regretted having the procedure, but I also never forgot the experience. I don’t want to.
Fast-forward 20-something years to the mid 1980s. I was in Budapest with friends, and we were playing tennis. My partner was the Hungarian-born Thomas Kerenyi, the head of Mount Sinai’s OB-GYN department. I knew it was him; my abortion doctor the minute he opened his mouth. I didn’t say anything then, but he and his wife became lifelong friends of mine.
In 2019, when Thomas was facing the end of his long and incredibly productive life, I asked him if I could do a podcast with him about his abortion years at Mount Sinai and the clinic in New York City. During the podcast, I told him he had performed my abortion. While we didn’t discuss it much while we were taping (he spent most of the podcast talking about how very difficult abortions were for women in New York in the years before the procedure was legal), we did talk about it at length after the microphone was off. I was able to express my gratitude on behalf of all women who’d shared my experience. I wept and so did he, and I also knew that he was so proud of what he had done for me and so many others. I knew it had cost him a lot to do abortions, including threats on his life and those of his family members and scorn from some of the other doctors at Mount Sinai. There is always a price to pay for greatness that is controversial.
Thomas and I made plans to do an entire podcast series on abortion, his fear that Roe v. Wade would be struck down, and what that would mean. He passed away a month after that the first interview, and we didn’t finish the way we’d hoped to. But our podcast is one you don’t want to miss, as he brings alive the time before abortion was legal and what it meant when it became legal. I hope you will take a moment to listen to it and pass it on if you think it will help others to understand what having no access can mean.
What do we owe Thomas?
We must look forward. Not spend all this time enumerating how we got here, pointing fingers at everyone, when the truth is there is a few decades of bad decisions on everyone’s part to parcel out in the blame game. RBG should have stepped down. Obama and the Congress shouldn’t have rolled over so easily around Garland’s appointment. Biden should have already increased the court’s size. And, then there is the laundry list of evil that sits on the other side of the aisle, which I can’t write about without such rage that I will not serve anyone. But truth be told, we are all to blame.
And, by the way, our beloved RBG also criticized the framing of Roe V Wade, which is worth watching here. She foresaw the instability of it years ago.
So, none of this is clear cut simple. And focusing on what brought us here is not going to help us move forward to fix it. So, what’s next?
Voting is what will fix this. Voting locally. Spending time on state elections (I have no idea who I vote for on the state side of the slate), which is where much of the laws moving forward will be made. I live in Maine. I will make Collins accountable for her slippery way of avoiding accountability.
Getting involved with corporate support for those companies that are going to provide safe transport for their employees that need to travel to get an abortion. The list is growing as I write.
Supporting organizations that will ensure that this time in history will not be like the 50’s and 60’s when women were alone with their terrifying secret trying to find their way. I love the idea I read yesterday about putting women’s health centers on reservations where the U.S. White Man’s Government has no reach. It will provide income and credibility to the reservations and a place where women can go to get the choice they made reality. There are lots of ideas for work arounds. Let’s support the ones that we think will work.
So, onwards, sisters and brothers. Onward. Action. Positive action is the course forward.