Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles
from Darcie Friesen Hossack, Managing Editor, WordCity Monthly:
On my desk is a copy of D-L Nelson’s coat hangers & knitting needles, Tragedies of Abortion in America Before Roe v. Wade.
The book is heavy for its size—not for the weight of its bindings—and has been accompanying me from room to room since it arrived here last week.
Having corresponded with the author since September, since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I knew what to expect. And yet, there’s a whole human history’s worth of more, including this from a doctor, on the horrors women faced before the landmark ruling in that country, which secured a woman’s right to her own reproductive decisions:
The hospital kept 32 beds on the fourth floor for patients who had botched abortions. Knitting needles, bicycle spokes, anything metal might have been used, he said.
Ages of patients varied from teenagers to women in their forties.
Women tried potassium permanganate tablets, he said. “It was a strong oxidizing agent and it burns the tissue. We would see these women with a black hole in the front and the back of the vagina… If the woman was lucky, it didn’t burn through into the rectum or bladder.”
Tissue would be so damaged it couldn’t be sutured. “It was like trying to suture butter. Awful,” he added.
With the loss of Justice Ginsburg, a return to these days appears to be a realistic possibility in the United States. Already, in countries such as El Salvador, women who miscarry are imprisoned under suspicion of having had abortions.
More on Donna-lane Nelson’s book is coming up. Due to the urgency now felt by the author and the editorial board at WordCity, however, the publication in its entirety has been made available by the author, as free as Amazon will permit: $0.73 USD for a Kindle download, for the month of October. It is also available in hardcopy. With this, and other pieces you’ll find throughout our issue, we at WordCity Monthly honour the life and work of the Notorious RBG. May her memory be a blessing, and may we collectively carry the torch she left us.
Tragedies of Abortion in America Before Roe v Wade
The landmark US Supreme Court decision in favor of legal abortion did not affect the number of babies delivered in the years following; there was, however, a drastic decline in maternal mortality.
There has always been abortion on demand for those women who do not feel they can have a baby, either by do-it-yourself with drugs or by instrument self-inflicted or assisted. There always will be abortion on demand. If abortion becomes illegal again, women will once again seek the backrooms, the motels, the shacks, the coat hangers and knitting needles. The only difference will be when abortion is illegal, will the mother die too?
Based on extensive research, including interviews with documentary filmmakers and activists, D-L Nelson describes the crusade against botched illegal abortions through the personal stories of the women who suffered, those who preyed upon or vilified them, and doctors and clergy who cared enough to get the laws changed. From Sarah Grosvenor, at the center of one of the first abortion trials in the New World … to popular children’s TV star Miss Sherri … to Madame Restell (“the wickedest woman in New York”) … Anthony Comstock, Lawrence Lader, Bill Baird, Curtis Boyd, David Grimes, Henry Morgentaler … the Clergy Consultation Service and the Jane Collective … to Norma McCorvey, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, you’ll learn the backstories of men, women and organizations who were key players in the abortion and birth control debate across the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The book features a detailed timeline of abortion milestones from 3000 BC to the present, plus a bibliography of books, periodicals, films / videos and websites.
To purchase a Kindle or hard copy of D-L Nelson’s Coat Hangers and Knitting Needles, at a steeply discounted price (as low as Amazon would permit), reduced especially for WordCity Monthly readers in the month of October, please click on this hightlighted text, and consider adding copies for your family and friends, or to give when times seem right.