‘No Choice’

Women who had abortions in U.S. before it was legal to do so share their stories

Lynne Hanley (Vimeo)

While 59 percent of American adults may believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the election of Donald Trump as president, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and constant legislative attacks on abortion rights has many women afraid of the possibility that conservatives could successfully make abortion illegal in the U.S. again. To give a sense of what that reality would be like, a video series from Bill Moyers, called No Choice, features interviews with women who went through abortions before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade 44 years ago — when abortions were illegal, and potentially life-threatening.

Lynne Hanley, now a retired professor of literature and fiction writing, said that she was in her third year at Cornell University and dating a man she felt she was in love with. She had tried to obtain contraception, she said, but was refused a prescription because she was not married. After she missed her period, Hanley used a false name to make an appointment with a doctor. She learned that she was pregnant — and that she’d be brought up on criminal charges if she tried to get an abortion. Hanley and her boyfriend didn’t feel ready for marriage or ready to raise a child, she said. So after some asking around, her boyfriend gave her the number for a Chinese laundromat in New Jersey. She was told to call and recite a coded phrase: “I can’t get the blood out of my husband’s blue silk shirt.”

“I had no idea who I was dealing with … I was terrified,” recalled Hanley. “But clearly my desire to not be pregnant was stronger than my fear.”

After meeting an intermediary who whisked her into a car to an apartment building, she was led to a woman who may or may not have been a doctor. She was given no anesthetic.

“After a bit, I suddenly screamed because it was excruciating painful,” said Hanley. “She hissed at me and said, ‘If you dare scream again you’ll never have children.’”

Below, watch Hanley’s story and those of two other women, Holly Alvarado and Gaylon Alcaraz, from the No Choice series.

Read the full story at BillMoyers.com.


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