Advising women on abortions in 1960s New York | Letter

Jenny Wright recalls her time helping women from around the US who wanted abortions that were possible, though illegal

I worked for the Abortion Law Reform Association in New York in 1968-69 (US shaken to its core by supreme court draft that would overturn Roe v Wade, 3 May). At that time, abortion was possible – but not legal – up to 12 weeks. My job was to scrutinise the hundreds of letters that poured in after an article in Life magazine that gave advice on obtaining an abortion in New York.

I replied to all of them to weed out the women who were more than 12 weeks pregnant and advised them to go the UK. I remember that the majority of the letters were from other states. They were mostly from women who had more children than they could manage. Many were Roman Catholic and their husbands refused to let them use contraception. Very few were teenagers, though the common perception at the time was that only promiscuous young women wanted to use the services.

My immediate superiors were arrested for committing a federal offence because we facilitated crossing state lines to commit a crime. I ceased working for them at that time, as I was British and a “registered alien”, and I would have been deported.
Jenny Wright
Dublin, Ireland


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