Before Roe v. Wade, there was "Bloody Mary."
Women who lived in Arkansas in the 1960s and whose friends had had abortions (or who'd had them themselves) will remember the woman who for a couple hundred dollars would terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
"Bloody Mary" wasn't a health professional. She lived on Lake Hamilton and performed abortions in her home there. A woman this reporter interviewed recently remembered driving one of her friends there.
She and the others who made the trip — including the father — dropped off their friend at a house where, the woman remembered, a Confederate flag flew. The abortionist herself wore overalls and a hat with a Confederate flag on it. The crew — all teen-agers — nervously drove around a bit before going to back to pick up their friend.
"She'd been stuffed with gauze way up," past the cervix, the woman recalled.
"She was having incredibly painful contractions and bleeding all over the place." They got her back to Little Rock, and though she tried to keep her situation from her parents, the bleeding was massive. She had to go to the hospital, suffering from infection and blood loss. "Bloody Mary" had apparently used instruments to force open the cervix and wedged in "tons of gauze, multiple rolls," the girl told her friends.
"The very doctor who had sent her to the abortionist had to take over her care," the woman recalled.
"Bloody Mary" is no myth, and she wasn't the only abortionist to endanger a girl's life with a botched abortion. This writer, too, knew high-school girls who visited an abortionist, with life-threatening outcomes.
Rose Mimms, the head of Arkansas Right to Life, shook her head sadly when she heard the stories. Abortion is as old as mankind is, she said. If she succeeds in her battle to make abortion illegal again, yes, she said, women will still seek abortions and, yes, they might suffer. She recalled her mother talking about women using knitting needles, and that the expression was "to knock these babies."
But she dismisses claims made previously that thousands could die. And she believes legal abortion is dangerous, too. "They'll die regardless."
And, in Mimms' view, thousands of unborn children will live. No longer will women thwart the Father's will, the plan He has for every fetus conceived.
Those who support the right of a woman to decide whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term were relieved that legislators thwarted the will of Arkansas Right to Life and other anti-abortion lobbyists in this year's General Assembly, turning back eight of nine bills that would have further limited access to what is now a legal procedure.
But Right to Life and the Family Council have successfully chipped away at access to legal abortion in Arkansas, one of only 13 states to have made abortion legal prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Arkansas law allows abortion up to the first day of the 26th week of pregnancy, or in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Minors must get consent or a judicial bypass, except in the case of abuse, assault, incest or neglect.
At one time, there were several physicians in private practice in Arkansas who would perform an abortion, and a clinic affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences offered the procedure as well. In recent years, only Dr. William Harrison in Fayetteville and Little Rock Family Planning Services offered surgical abortions. With Harrison's death, there is now only one place to get a surgical abortion.
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