Letters From the Archives is a series in which we highlight past Atlantic stories and reactions from readers at the time.
In personal essays, reported features, and constitutional arguments, The Atlantic has been covering the American abortion debate for decades. Here’s a selection of the responses that coverage has garnered through the years. These letters provide a window into a long-running national conversation, as experienced—and argued—by our readers.
In 1965, a woman decided to have an abortion. The woman and her husband, who already felt the economic strain of three children, realized, among other things, that they couldn’t afford to have another. The following August, under the pseudonym “Mrs. X,” she wrote about her experience for The Atlantic. The “successful,” “deft,” and “sterile” illegal abortion had left her “admirably relaxed for the first time in two weeks.” It also raised questions: “Is the time coming when we can rid ourselves of one more hypocrisy, closing the gap between what we do and what we say we do?”
“I cannot understand your stooping to sensationalism of [this] type,” wrote Mary Pat Gregerson from Des Moines, Iowa; “this is the type of article I’d expect to find in a ‘confessions’ magazine,” not The Atlantic. A member of the Iowa State House of Representatives, Gregerson believed that abortion rights constituted a threat to American democracy: “When that life has not had the opportunity to justify its existence, we no longer need to fear Communism; its worst aspects have already been realized.”