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across the country, with somebody who was trapped by the discriminatory laws who felt, "we have to change this, it just isn't fair.”
One of the things we did in Boston was to get together a coalition of clergymen, social workers, psychiatrists, family, planning experts and physicians and set up a group called Pregnancy Counseling Service which opened its doors the first month in 1970. This was 6 months before the New York law changed. In those months that Pregnancy Counseling Service operated, primarily as an information and referral center, it saw, before the New York law changed, 2,000 women. This was a fledgling operation, a fledgling organization, yet in the first 6 months, we saw 2,000 women from all across Massachusetts; women also came down from Maine, from Vermont, from Connecticut. Forty percent of those women in the pre-New York era went to London and had abortions there. Ten percent decided to continue with their pregnancy or had no option but to continue with their pregnancy. Ten percent got abortions under therapeutic laws that were beginning to loosen up in Massachusetts, California and Washington, D.C., although it cost more to go to California than it did to fly to London. Forty percent of that caseload went illegally or, as people say euphemistically, extra legally. With the advent of the New York law, it was extraordinary what a difference it made. Within 1 month there was not one more illegal case that came through the office. There was not one more trip to London. It was like, well, today's picture of the stock market. Certain referral categories went straight down. There were no more referrals to London, no more illegal cases at all. Suddenly we were able to say, “no, you don't have to leave the country; you only have to drive 200 miles." It meant for the first time we were able to offer legal operations and provide decent medical care for women who, in the past, had had no options at all—unless you consider going to the pharmacist in Roxbury and getting little black pills as an option, or going to that hair dresser in Quincy who used to do quite a job with a lye douche.
You get bombarded with statistics all the time, so I won't quote the numbers, but I really think the change that we witnessed was one that is just very hard to put into words. The statistical tables that are released by the Center for Disease Control and things that come out of U.S. Public Health Service say it, I think, in figures and in numbers. What we saw was the human side of it, and that was just extraordinary.
With the Supreme Court ruling we made yet another dramatic leap. People who were involved in health care, welfare services, social services, counseling, and medicine all across the country breathed a tremendous sigh of relief when that ruling came down. We had seen a lot of problems in referring women to resources that were 200 miles away or, since I am just speaking for Massachusetts, for many people who were literally thousands of miles away. You don't get quality medical care when you have to go that far to be placed under a doctor's advice. I think all of us were greatly relieved and we sat back and said, "thank heavens. We no longer have to do battle, we can get on with the business of providing just basic, decent health care."
Well, obviously, we spoke too soon. Very quickly there arose several groups—particularly a great alliance between extremely conservative organizations and authoritarian religious groups—which joined forces to try to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. I think the really sad thing is that the focus of these groups who may be very sincerely and thoughtfully opposed to abortion has been on people like you, has been on the legislature, has been in the form of filing bills and attaching riders and trying to amend the U.S. Constitution, because the reality is that an antiabortion victory, if you want to call it that, that comes out of oppressive legislation is a very hollow one. It serves only those who are truly vindictive, because a legislative change isn't going to stop abortions. There are very few people who could honestly come before you and suggest that making abortion illegal is really going to make a significant difference.
Senator Bays. Let me deal with that question. One of you or all three of you.
We have had figures printed that show there has been an increase. How significant an increase depends on whose figures one relies on, but at least the number of abortions that we know about have gone up significantly. It is, of course, always difficult to nail down the number of illegal abortions.
Is it your opinion that there would be no difference in the numbers, that there might not be a good number of women who didn't have the $800 when forced to look at that test of doing something illegal or dangerous, might decide to have the child; do you
have any data ?
Ms. Lowry. Well, I think we have probably seen the same studies. I would agree with what you say. I think there has been an indication that legally situation has made a difference and that certain groups have gotten abortions that would not in the past have gotten abortions.
Senator Baył. Perhaps I should ask you too—it might be more helpful and easier on you to confine your answer to that question to the statistical area that you are familiar with. What about Massachusetts? What data do you have about illegal abortions before? and the number of abortions that are performed now?
Ms. Lowry. I have one piece that covers really New York rather than Massachusetts and one—I will have to say undocumented impression from our own group in Massachusetts. A significant study was done by Dr. Tietze in New York that indicated that certain groups, the very young and older women were getting abortions that would not have in the past. We, of course, saw this in the Pregnancy Counseling Service in Boston.
The people under restrictive laws who did not get abortions, yet who wanted them were usually the 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds who didn't come to the office until they were literally 19 and 20 weeks— extraordinary situations where the parents didn't know that the girl was pregnant, even though to anybody else looking at her, she was obviously pregnant. The very young teenager who was terrified to tell anybody, who really just hoped it would go away, and really didn't say anything until it was too late. For this kind of person, at 19 weeks, to go to an illegal abortionist is to invite death right there. An illegal abortionist just wouldn't touch a pregnancy that far
along. To have a hospital-based, second trimester abortion is not, I can't say, the world's simplest procedure, but it is done and in fact the second trimester procedures tend to be on the very young, so I think it would be fair to say there has been a transition—that before the laws changed that particular segment did not get abortions.
The trouble is, if we turned back, what would happen? We have thousands of physicians who have dealt with abortion as a medical rather than a legal issue. They have seen it as an integral part of medical care. Could you plunge that whole group back into the Dark Ages? I think that one could probably say that in an area where alcohol was unavailable and you suddenly legalized alcohol you might see an increase in consumption. Where it was generally available and you banned it, given the people who knew how to make bathtub gin, I wonder, I wonder, looking at prohibition particularly, whether one would go back
Senator Bayh. I am not too sure, although some of that bathtub gin was powerful stuff and had a powerful impact on people, I am not too sure the impact on people of drinking a little illegal booze was the same thing as a person having an illegal abortion.
Ms. Lowry. Not at all, but I draw on this image as a parellel in terms of human nature. The fact is, from our experience, women who want to have an abortion will have an abortion come hell or high water. What really happens is, if you make a law restrictive you don't change that fact. You certainly effect the circumstances. You can set up a very punitive system so that people who get abortions will have them under the worst possible circumstances, but they will have them. That is a subjective statement and I realize you are bombarded with subjective statements.
I feel there is a better way for people who are concerned about abortions and don't like abortions or are sensitive to the difficult moral questions that abortions present to attack this. I think that there are lots of ways that we can really fight abortions.
Senator BayH. How?
Ms. Lowry. Well, starting with the field that I am most interested in, family planning and sex education should receive the widest possible support. I know some people have trouble with their religious backgrounds and birth control. So there are other approaches as well.
Senator Bayh. We are dealing here with an area that—take politics out of it, if it is possible for somebody who is running for reelection to do so. After the election there will be no question about my ability to do that. But try as I have to look at it objectively, I have never faced anything that has even approximated this issue in combining a deep moral fervor, and on both sides. Those who are talking about the right to choose in this country and the people who feel that that is taking life feel very strongly about it. I can certainly understand that from my own personal standpoint.
The scientific-medical-legal question is very complex. So here we are asked to get the Government involved in trying to sort this out, which is a very, very difficult thing to do. I ask this question only because the Government is being asked by some to sort this out, not that I feel that the Government has any position to sort out the question I am about to address to you.
First of all, let me say I don't believe the Government has a role in trying to determine bedroom practices dealing with the differences that some people have about the morality or immoralities of certain types of birth control methods, short of abortion.
Have you noticed any change in the attitudes that prevailed earlier relative to the immorality of using certain kinds of birth control? Has there been a movement toward feeling maybe we can bend a little bit and accept certain types of birth control as being better than the abortions?
Ms. Lowry. Oh, yes. I think there is no question but that birth control is now used by members of religious groups that have traditionally opposed contraception. While the hierarchy may still stand in that position, the hierarchy isn't going to deal with the results of the problem. Certainly most young people with education are strongly in favor of contraception and birth control, and that usage by certain religious groups which have a traditional posture against it is actually identical to use by groups that don't have that religious background. I think that is very significant.
I think another thing, in addition to the changing values and attitudes on contraception, is that the women's movement of the support by the general populace of the improvement of women and their image of themselves and their options has been every bit as good a contraceptive and contraceptive motivator as have birth control pills. I think motivation is a key thing here. If you are going to fight abortion you have got to look at why people get pregnant if they don't want to get pregnant, and, too, why people who get pregnant feel compelled to terminate it because of external circumstances. We have a classic image of who this person is, who is pregnant, and who is seeking an abortion, and we settle on an 18-year-old college student, but the reality is that this is not the typical case. Our society is not very tolerant of the 35-year-old mother who has four children who is pregnant and wants to go through with this pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption. Our society is very, very punitive to that person. She is a "bad" mother. She is a “terrible” mother. She doesn't like her child enough to keep it. What kind of dreadful person must she be. So this woman is faced not with the choice of continuing the pregnancy and giving up for adoption, or continuing and keeping, and terminating. She is faced with the question "can she live in her neighborhood or not,” and if she personally feels she cannot handle a fourth child she doesn't have the option of giving it up for adoption, not because of the law but because of the attitude. I think we can work to change these broad punitive attitudes—anything. It is the whole gambit; it is better education; better welfare rights; better health care, all of these things that make people feel they can't have one more child. I think that is something everybody should be able to work for. That is the direction we have to go in. We cannot go back to the days where a woman in Portland, Maine, had to get up at 2 a.m. to go to a clinic in New York for a 10:30 appointment and then to turn around and get back on that bus and ride for 7 hours to get back to her home town after an abortion procedure. We just
can't go back to that. We can't go back to the time before that, when women who could raise $800 or $1,500, traveled to London or Japan and the women would couldn't get that kind of money went underground and went down the back alleys. We can't go back that way again.
I hope we never go back to the way it was 10 years ago, when, with $187 in my pocket, I walked down the lower end of Massachusetts Ave., the seedy side of the town, the seedy side of the tracksI won't go into all of the details, but it ended up in a chiropractor's office and it is the kind of experience which changes your life. It changed mine. It made me feel very strongly that whatever energies I had, whatever education I had, what skills I had, had to be put toward making sure that no other woman would ever have to do it the way I did it: prevention, wherever possible, in all ways possible, but there had to be options for people like me.
I realize this is a politically sensitive issue. I realize you must be under pressure, but I really hope that what comes through from these hearings, from the letters that come in to you and even from a sense of what people are thinking, what the majority of people think, that you can perceive there are good arguments on both sides and can respect those arguments and particularly can support a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which echoed that respect and which was not proabortion, but prochoice—which set down as the law of the land a ruling which said that each and every individual should be free to follow his or her most sincere conscience and religious beliefs in that matter free from coercion or interference by the U.S. Government.
That is all I have to say.
Ms. ROUDEBUSH. Thank you, Senator Bayh, for permitting me to speak with you about this serious matter in an atmosphere that is deliberative and trustful. I commend you for the many hearings you have held relative to these proposed amendments and the spirit of fairness and honest inquiry with which they have been conducted.
I am Mrs. George Roudebush of St. Louis, Mo., president of the committee for legal abortion in Missouri. Our citizens' group was formed in 1969, at first to establish in Missouri the legal right of any woman to secure a safe abortion; and to protect that right, after the Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973, affirmed it. Our committee is affiliated with the National Abortion Rights Action League, of which I am a director.
My interest in many aspects of family planning and maternal health extends over many years and has led me into many activities. I am currently on the board of directors of the Planned Parenthood Association of St. Louis, and on its Speakers' Bureau. In the sixties I headed a citizens' committee to initiate birth control services in public health institution of the city and county. Subsequently I chaired a coalition task force bringing together agencies in the field which has now developed into the St. Louis Metropolitan Area Council for Voluntary Family Planning, Inc. These activities all stem from my abiding belief that women are entitled to know how to manage their reproductive life, for their good, for the good of their children, for the well-being of society. My concern tells further that they must have access to the best possible medical services and re