PAUL KRASSNER, LONGTIME SATIRIST AND ACTIVIST, RECOUNTS THE HISTORY OF ABORTION IN HIS LIFETIME— FROM ILLEGAL TO LEGAL TO THE DETERIORATION OF A WOMAN’S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS TODAY. HE DETAILS THE PAST, WHEN HE RAN AN UNDERGROUND ABORTION REFERRAL SERVICE, AND WARNS OF A DANGEROUS FUTURE…
When abortions were illegal in America, women had no choice but to seek out back-alley butchers for what should have been a medical procedure in a sterile environment. If there was a botched surgery and the victim went to a hospital, the police were called, and they wouldn’t allow the doctor to provide a painkiller until the patient gave them the information they sought.
In 1962 an article in Look magazine stated, “There is no such thing as a ‘good’ abortionist. All of them are in business strictly for money.” But in an issue of my own magazine, The Realist, that same year, I published an anonymous interview with the late Dr. Robert Spencer, a truly humane abortionist, promising that I would go to prison sooner than reveal his identity.
He had served as an Army doctor in World War I, then became a pathologist at a hospital in Ashland, Pennsylvania. At a time when 5,000 women were killed each year by criminal abortionists who charged as much as $1,500, his reputation had spread by word of mouth, and he was known as The Saint. Patients came to his clinic in Ashland from around the country.
I took the five-hour bus trip from New York to Ashland with my gigantic Webcor tape recorder. Dr. Spencer was the cheerful personification of an old-fashioned physician. He wore a red beret and used folksy expressions like “by golly.” He had been performing abortions for 40 years. He started out charging $5 and never asked for more than $100. He rarely used the word pregnant. Rather, he would say, “She was that way, and she came to me for help.”