Edited excerpt from “Sex, No Drugs & Rock-n-Roll“ by L.E.Kalikow, when abortions were illegal in Indiana… How quickly they forget!
Chapter XIV (1968-69)
“As the supersonic Concorde made its maiden flight and Golda Meir took a giant step for women’s rights to become Israel’s new Prime Minister, we were on the highway to Ohio in my 1954 Nash, Janet as co-pilot to an illegal abortionist from her past. Janet recounted how, avoiding surgery, ‘The Doctor’ would insert some sort of poison to cause Charlotte to double over in pain and abort. But Charlotte figured, after what she’d just been through, this would be a walk in the park. Worried it was too soon for another body-shot, I also knew the longer we waited, the more dangerous it would be. As sunset deceivingly colored Charlotte’s sallow complexion, we pulled into a suburban split-level neighborhood, with little white mailboxes numbered at the end of each driveway. At “252,” Janet steered us around back to a private entrance. Waiting at a screen door next to a Formica MD placard tacked on a wooden shingle, a red plastic bubble on a converted station wagon/ambulance peered through the adjacent garage window. The Doctor’s matronly assistant/wife then led us into a makeshift waiting room that smelled of roach spay, complete with copies of Time, Look, The Saturday Evening Post, and Mad Magazine.
Charlotte’s hand wavered slightly as she filled out a form complaining of ‘stomach cramps and bleeding,’ holding The Doctor ‘harmless for any possible complications’ arising out of the ‘D&C operation’ he was about to perform. Returning a receipt for $150 of the $350 paid in advance, The Wife smiled more at the cash than Charlotte as she led us in to meet The Doctor. Standing in his white coat and gray hair, he looked like Marcus Welby (who didn’t show up on TV until later that year), feigning recognition when Janet reminded him of her last visit. … Charlotte’s porcelain skin, now devoid of color, her shimmering green eyes encircled in darkness, tried to smile as I squeezed her hand and kissed her forehead before leaving the room.
As soon as the door closed behind me, I was out feeling my way around the side of the house to a crack of light spilling into a flowerbed beneath the office window. Charlotte sat on the examining table, now in a white cloth dressing gown tied in the back, talking to Janet. As The Wife stowed Charlotte’s clothes, Marcus Welby headed toward my window but stopped half way, taking a swig from a metal flask hidden in his coat pocket before turning back to the girls with a smile. Charlotte then stood while The Wife unrolled a long sheet of white paper for her to re-sit on, knees up, placing her feet in stirrups at the foot of the examining table. Following an injection from The Doctor, The Wife returned with a bowl of soapy water and a sponge to wash between her legs. Charlotte’s tension seemed to ease, swaying and loosening her hair as The Doctor rolled over an intravenous apparatus…
In the harsh fluorescent lights and whites, Charlotte appeared bleached and bruised, attached to an IV drip, her legs open in The Doctor’s face as he sat on a small metal stool manipulating her last vestiges of pride. Then, after inserted a length of rubber tubing with a funnel at the end, he poured in a bottle of liquid, like emptying transmission fluid into a car, before temporarily removing the IV and helping her down from the table to a rubber mat on the floor. In a matter of minutes, Charlotte was in obvious pain, doubled over in the fetal position clutching her stomach as Janet joined her, entwined and crying together while The Doctor took another drink. This was barbaric! Forced to drive for hours and watch helplessly as a drunken quack used poison to provide deniability for an otherwise simple procedure, outlawed in the ‘land of the free.’ With each wave of cramps, Charlotte quivered, her veins and muscles stiffening and protruding, clenching her teeth and hands as Janet held on, reliving her own pain. When red ooze began flowing from her guts, Charlotte passed out and together they placed her back on the table, like a white bleeding Christ figure. Reattached to the IV, her feet returned to the stirrups, even though only semi-conscious, Charlotte’s body continued to cramp and expel fluids, membrane and blood into a metal receptacle at the base of the table. With minutes passing as hours, it seemed as though the worst was over when The Wife returned from the sink with the wet sponge and The Doctor resumed his position on the stool. Then while probing with a thin metal tool, something went very wrong.
In an unexpected aftershock, Charlotte suddenly opened her eyes and lunged forward, in a nightmare scream before falling back into unconsciousness. The metal rod jammed deep inside, hemorrhaging renewed as The Doctor wrestled with the instrument. When it dislodged, deep red blood began spurting and gushing, spraying his face and clothes. As The Doctor froze dripping in panic, my foot tangled in a garden hose, throwing me face down in the grass, trying to run back inside. Kicking open the office door, the floor slippery with blood, Charlotte lay on a rolling aluminum table, her nails turning blue and skin pinched back in a skeletal stare. The Wife clearly in charge, had Janet wrapping ice from the refrigerator in wads of gauze, packing Charlotte in an attempt to slow the bleeding before slapping her husband and yelling at us to get out of the way as she wheeled the lifeless body out to the garage. Forcing The Doctor in back with Charlotte, The Wife was shrieking, “You See! You see what I’ve been saying!… Now look what you’ve done, you dumb sonovabitch!!” Then turning on us, “Stay here! The last thing we need is you two idiots at the hospital!” as she jumped in the front seat and peeled out, red light and siren screaming down the block. No way we were staying behind, gunning the Nash, we barreled across the lawn, knocking off the neighbor’s mailbox in hot pursuit. Janet’s dress and shoes covered in blood, transfixed on the flashing red light in the distance…”
It’s hard to imagine we might be heading back into the religious right hypocrisy of back-room abortions again…. But then, who could have guessed we’d end up in the cesspool of political stupidity now surrounding us, dousing the light of liberty that was once America.
My book Sex, No Drugs and Rock n’ Roll (Memoirs of a Music Junkie) is available now! Take a look at some excerpts here or my About section for more about yours truly.
Follow me on Twitter at @LEKalikow or Facebook at LEKalikowAuthor!
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