This particular M.D. was able to strike a nice balance between willingness to help and lack of overeagerness to collect his $500, payable in advance. He stated frankly that he felt the element of physical risk was negligible but that the myths and exaggerations about abortion and the hard fact that it was an illegal procedure created prior apprehensions of sometimes damaging proportions. He urged me to call him and cancel the appointment if my husband and I felt there was any reason to reconsider our decision. Short of physical and fiscal miracles we had no right to expect, I didn't see what could alter our circumstances and told him so, but I agreed wholeheartedly about the apprehensions.
The operation was successfully concluded as scheduled. Forty-five minutes after I entered the doctor's office for the second time, I walked out, flagged a passing cab, and went home. Admirably relaxed for the first time in two weeks, I dozed over dinner, left the children to wash the dishes, and dove into bed to sleep for twelve hours. The operation and its aftereffects were exactly as described by the physician. For some five minutes I suffered "discomfort" closely approximating the contractions of advanced labor. Within ten minutes this pain subsided, and returned in the next four or five days only as the sort of mild twinge which sometimes accompanies a normal menstrual period. Bleeding was minimal.
Post hoc, my conclusions are these:
1. If five people, of my limited acquaintance, knew five different abortionists in active practice within a few square miles of each other, I find myself wondering if the abortion rate must not parallel the live birth rate in the United States.
2. Four of the five abortionists recommended to me were duly licensed physicians. Is this extraordinary, or are the dark tales about all abortions being performed in filthy surroundings by unskilled practitioners using knitting needles exaggerated?
3. My operation at least was performed with what seemed to me incredible proficiency, speed, and deftness, with sterile instruments designed for the purpose for which they were used. The Kinsey Institute is welcome to add me to its conclusions, which are that though they have been able to interview few abortionists, they are much impressed with the skill, humanity, and understanding these few showed for their patients.
I am sure that my experience is not unique. There must be hundreds like me from coast to coast who for sober and considered reasons daily undergo the same fears, search for the same kinds of operative sources, and find the money necessary to terminate unwanted pregnancy.
Some states are less rigid in enforcing antiabortion statutes than others. The low nationwide rate of convictions obtained against abortionists perhaps points not only to the difficulty of obtaining evidence against them but also to the acknowledgment by law enforcement agencies of the real necessity of such practices. As the Kinsey group says, "In our own sample we find that the great percentage of the women who had an illegal abortion stated that it had been the best solution to their immediate problem. This widespread difference between our overt culture as expressed in our laws and public pronouncements and our covert culture as expressed in what people actually do and secretly think is as true with abortion as with most types of sexual behavior."