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Mrs. Jones tells her story
I'm 71 years old. I was born in 1930 in Chicago, in the middle of a bad winter. I was next to the youngest in a family of 9. My mother was 46 when I was born and almost 48 when my youngest brother was born. My mother finished high school one month before she married my father. She was barely 18. In 30 years my mother gave birth to 9 children, miscarried five times fairly early on in the pregnancies and she experienced 2 later miscarriages, when she was 6 and then 5 months along. The last miscarriage was about 7 months before I was conceived.
Before my mother died she also told me about 2 abortions she had, abortions my father never knew about, the second one a year after her ninth child was born.
In 1953, the day after college graduation, I was married. My husband and I both were about to begin our teaching careers, I was a going to teach 3rd grade and my husband was going to teach high school history and science. We were still newlyweds and we could not afford a baby yet. We had used a condom but we hadn't used it correctly. We got better at it but suffice it to say, we had a problem.
 
Abortion's Silenced Legacy
It was several weeks before Jack, my husband, found a doctor through someone who knew someone who knew someone at the State University we'd attended. Jack was assured that though this man obviously operated in secret, he was not what is referred to today as a back alley butcher but we both worried about whether that was really true. We were both very scared.

I traveled a long way by myself, precisely following the instructions on how I was to get there. I took three different taxis and then a bus into the rural countryside to this Doctor's home. My husband wanted to go with me but the doctor had said just I was allowed to come so my husband stayed at home and didn't expect me back home till late in the evening.
When I walked into the parlor of Dr. Townsend's home, it smelled of spices not sterile alcohol as one might have thought, and it felt very homey with a definite country farm look.
We went into what had been a bedroom and I was asked to undress and put on a sterile gown and climb upon the table. The table was a large homemade dining room table that had been converted into a medical table with a thin mattress placed on top and homemade wooden stirrups nailed onto one end. I was surprised and comforted by the sterile gown. As I lay upon the table in that sterile gown, Mrs. Townsend was taking a last look around to be sure everything was just the way it should be, I took another deep breath and suddenly felt like I was safe, in the hands of a caring doctor and all would be alright.
Dr. Townsend entered the room.as he began to scrape my uterus; a commotion erupted out in his parlor room. It was the police.
 
It was the police
In spite of protests and pleadings by Dr. Townsend to finish my abortion, they pushed him aside and handcuffed him. They forced me off the table, bleeding profusely. They allowed me, in the presence of a policewoman, to get dressed and put on several pads to soak up the blood. Five other women were in the house, two that were resting after their abortions and three who were waiting to have an abortion performed. We were all taken away out of the house in handcuffs. Doctor Townsend and his wife were arrested and their 5 year-old son was taken into custody by the social services department.

Outside there were photographers
Outside there were newspaper photographers; their flashes blinded me as we were pulled to the cars. I was terrified. I had seen pictures in the paper of the same thing happening to other women. I knew I was being treated so horribly to force me into telling the police anything they wanted to know. To warn other women who saw the pictures to reconsider if they were thinking abut having an abortion.
 
I hid my face in my coat, tripping on the stairs and scratching up my knees, forcing the police to practically carry me, leaving a trail of blood flowing from between my knees, but no one got a clear picture of me. No reporter, no newspaper got a picture of me, I made sure of that.
I hid my face in my coat

I was bleeding bad and was in pain. I was taken to County Hospital. There I along with the other two women who had already had their abortions were told we didn't have to submit to a gynelogical exam but if we did our husbands, boyfriends, and parents names wouldn't have to be released to the press, they wouldn't have to be publicly embarrassed. I didn't have a choice. Not just because of the police's threats but because my abortion needed to be completed before I bled to death.
Three months later we were in a courtroom.
When I testified I tried to look at Dr. Townsend but I couldn't. I felt so guilty. He'd been good to me. He was a capable abortion provider and he hadn't hurt me. But I had no choice.
I was humiliated and degraded by a prosecutor trying to make a name for himself, trying to make examples of me and the other patients of Dr. Townsend, and it seemed, trying to give the courtroom and the press an X rated sex show. Neither my husband nor I were prepared for what happened in that courtroom that day - what happened to me - to us - something no woman or family should ever have to endure nor something any doctor should have to endure for simply helping women safely terminate a pregnancy they wanted to terminate.
 
The district attorney asked me embarrassing and unnecessary questions. And representatives of the press taking down every word because they knew this would sell more of their newspapers tomorrow than had been sold today..
I was on the stand for several hours. .
He asked me to describe exactly how I undressed in Dr. Townsend's office, describing every piece of clothing including how I took off my underwear. I had to describe how I got upon the table. He asked me how I was positioned on the table, "Were your legs raised and your knees spread wide apart?" I choked out an answer. "Louder for the jury!" he demanded. I looked over at the judge but his stern face, penetrating eyes, and his affirmative nod told me there would be no empathy from him and no mercy, so I repeated my answer louder.
He asked me, "When Dr. Townsend began you said he inserted a rubber tube into your vagina and up through your cervix into your uterus - now I don't mean to be unpleasant about it but I want to know if he inserted his hand or finger into your vagina to do this?" I said his fingers. The district attorney approached me. "His fingers what? What did he do with his fingers?"

I wanted to scream, I wanted to run away, and I nearly vomited all over myself. I struggled to hold it back. I answered that he'd put his finger in my private part..."
"Somebody may not know what you mean when you say your privates. What do you mean when you say your privates. Which of your privates was it that he injected his fingers and his instruments into?"
I hesitated; it was so humiliating, my heart was pounding I felt cold and flushed - I thought I was going to die. This, I thought, is what it must feel like to be raped.
He yelled at me, "Well if you can't say, can you point?" And he crossed the room and unveiled a crude and graphic picture of the female genitals upon a chalkboard and stood there waiting for me to cross the room to the chalkboard. It was the longest few feet I've ever walked. Once there, he glared at me. "Now
 
point to which of your private parts Dr. Townsend inserted his fingers and his instruments." I pointed to the vagina drawn on the chalkboard. "Now tell the jury what you pointed to." No one stood up to object that I was being badgered or humiliated and degraded. No One. Not a single soul.
I said "I don't know how to say it to you."
The judge then spoke. "Well," he snapped impatiently and loudly, "Was it between your fingers?" I couldn't stop crying. "No. Between my legs" I SCREAMED. "Well, what part of your body did Dr. Townsend insert his fingers, that is between your legs?"
My dignity was in shreds now. They weren't going to relent and no one was going to stand up for me and make them. I lowered my head, "He inserted his fingers and instruments into my vagina." I finally said. I went back to the witness chair, never once looking up..

The sexually charged trials
My feelings of guilt and anger grew as the hours dragged on. This, I kept thinking should never happen to another woman, to another family. How can this be happening in a country like ours?..
Doctor Townsend.went to jail for several years and then I never knew what happened to him after that.
 
He went to jail just because he was helping women safely terminate a pregnancy they would have terminated someway, somehow, somewhere no matter the law and no matter how dangerous it would have been to their health or life, why couldn't they understand that? Why?
I've never gotten over that experience, the unfairness of it, the threats to publicly humiliate our families and send me to jail. I've also never forgiven myself for sacrificing Doctor Townsend for myself. But what else could I have done?
 
For my husband and I, not having a baby at that time in our lives was the right decision - then and now. We have no regrets about the abortion - not even one regret..
 
Our years of activism are coming to an end - we have been there - seen the horror of illegal abortion and tried to make you understand. We have to pass the baton to you now, please - take as good care of it as we have.

 
 
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