Abortion Story #243: An underground service in 1966

Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days. Below is the opening of Dr. Leni Silverstein’s story. Not ready to become a parent, she speaks about the fear she experienced obtaining an abortion seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. Dr. Silverstein shared her story in an amicus brief supporting access to abortion when the Court considered Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. That case challenged Texas restrictions on abortion, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2016. Read Dr. Silverstein’s full account that she also published in Bustle.


“I became pregnant back when abortion was illegal and when I wasn’t ready to be a parent. It was the summer of 1966. I was 22 years old and a recent graduate of the University of Chicago. I knew at the time that I wasn’t positioned to be a mother — I wasn’t financially, emotionally, or professionally prepared to care for a child, and I didn’t have a committed partner. I made the decision that I needed to have an abortion, but I had to figure out how.

Before the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, which affirmed a constitutional right to abortion, thousands of women like me were left without options. I, like others, found myself unable to care for a child, but knowing that an improper procedure could put my reproductive health at risk. When abortion was illegal, you certainly could not go to your trusted doctor or to a community clinic to seek the procedure. Left with no other options, I found a connection to an underground abortion service in Chicago through a friend. Thousands of other women made similar decisions during this time.

I was instructed to meet an unidentified person at a predetermined location. I was terrified for my safety and health, but I went to the meeting place, alone as instructed, with $200 in cash I’d borrowed from friends. There I was blindfolded, and then driven to an undisclosed and unknown location…”

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