tv Mid-20th Century Abortion Access CSPAN January 26, 2019 9:30am-9:47am EST
in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. next we talk with historian alicia romine about laws that restricted abortion in the 20th century. theican history tv recorded interview at the western history association annual meeting in san antonio, texas. >> joining us from san antonio, she currentlyne, teaches in riverside, california. we want to focus on abortion. when did we first see them in the u.s. and when did they become illegal? >> hi. we always see them in the united states. we know that women have practiced abortion since as long as women have been having children. there is a specific moment when
we first see them in the u.s. they are always there. we see them when things go badly. they become illegal in the united states during the 1800s. you see a lot of this early legislation, early abortion legislation developing around the 1840's and 1880's, every state in the united states has a law against abortion. >> when we hear the term, back alley abortions, i know it is obvious but explain what we were seeing in this time? vary.can slated abortion, often with back alley abortion, illegal abortion can take place in a doctor's office. it is just describing when an abortion is a distinction.
there have been exceptions in states to protect the life of the health of the woman. performing a doctor an abortion for illegal reasons in his or her office or it could be someone who has no medical textbook may be read a or thinks they know what abortion is, simply trying to do the procedure in their home, bathroom, back alley. illegal abortion, back alley abortions can fit anywhere in the spectrum. >> in researching your paper, breaking the law, abortion black and white, was it a race issue? wealth issue? who was able to get abortions, if anyone? >> great question. for the actual paper i am presenting, which is breaking the law: an abortion in
black-and-white, i am looking at different cases. circumstances were similar. they were southern california participants who performed illegal abortions for two different women, both 18 years old. one was white and the other physician was black. to white physician was able go on probation and the black physician was sentenced to five years to life in prison. in that chapter i am looking at punishments conferred on physicians and how that depended on race. generally speaking, the type of people who got abortions were all women. all women got abortions. a woman's means determines whether or not her abortion was safe, whether it might be considered legal if ambiguous, and so a woman's own class circumstances often affected the quality of care she received. >> how much of a health risk was
it? how much danger where these women in pre-roe v. wade 1973? >> it is actually interesting. before 1930 -- 1930 is when we see labor and delivery moving to the hospital -- before 1930, abortion was safer than childbirth. the circumstances of that abortion vary. if you have a physician performing before 1930, it is probably safe. circumstances under which a woman is able to get an abortion are so limited, it often meant women had to turn to illegal practitioners in which case it would increase the risk associated with the procedure. most of the risk came from the scale of the provider -- skill of the provider. did they do the full procedure?
did they completely abortion? in the hands of a skilled practitioner who knew what they were doing, who sterilized their instruments, it was a say procedure and much safer than childbirth until the 1930's. once you push this procedure into the black market, once you have persons providing this illegally, that is when risk increases. >> in the middle of the 20th century, the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, how much would abortions cost or did it vary on who you were and where it was performed? >> it does vary. if we are looking at 1935 for example, i talk about an illegal , theion rang operating price they charged was $50 for abortion being performed within the first 12 weeks. that would have the same buying
power now as $900. it is costly. at the are looking 1960's and illegal abortions, patricia mcginnis, this activist who tried to help women find reputable providers in mexico, she cautioned her clients to avoid any abortion provider who charged less than $300. she said if you are paying less than that, you're probably not getting a reputable provider who would give antibiotics or pain medication. $50 in the spectrum, 1930's to $300 for illegal abortions in the 1960's. if you are someone who was practicing illegal abortion or therapeutic abortion, that cost
might be high as well because typically it involves paying for your private medical practitioner, also with a hospital procedure, that involves overnight stay. your cost would be significant either way. meansetermined what legal women have access to. >> you used the term, therapeutic abortion. >> therapeutic abortion were those that were considered legal. these were abortions that were as necessary to protect the life or health of the woman. this term is legally amorphous. it could mean anything. whatluidity in the term, this means is by the 1940's, 1950's, even the 1960's, we see
hospital therapeutic committees really trying to control what that term means. it moves the individual decision to committees of 3-5 people who have never seen this woman or treated her before and they are now determining whether or not she can access and abortion. therapeutic abortion's were legal but they were sometimes more difficult to get. >> weather in a classroom or with your peers, at the western history association, what kind of reaction does your research get? what questions are most often asked to you? >> often the reaction is, surprise. most of my students have grown up after roe v. wade. i myself grew up after roe v. wade. topic,i approached this i never thought of what abortion
was like before that. feel takey students i this for granted. they take for granted the u.s. supreme court decision. they believe they have certain rights. certainly in different political climates, those opinions change. sometimes students feel their rights are at risk and other times they do not. generally, surprise. people don't generally know the links and the lengths to which women went to to acquire abortions, people never really think about whether or not abortions existed before roe v. wade. almost as if, roe v. wade allows abortion and now everyone has abortions. that is not the case. abortions were just not legally sanctioned and often under scary situations. >> how far would women go to seek abortions? if they couldn't get in the u.s., did they go elsewhere? >> they did. i looked at american women in
california who go to the border thehe 1950's and 1960's, border with mexico. there are a number of women who do that who go to places like tijuana, mexicali, to have these procedures. there are other women who have more financial means able to go to places like sweden or japan or mexico city where they are able to pay for services of a licensed gynecologist in japan and in
are able to travel to those places but your standard american woman who maybe doesn't have the means to fly to sweden for a week, she can often find the ability to afford an over the border abortion and take care of that within the course of a day trip. >> this is not only a social issue and historical issue but also a medical issue. explain the evolution of antibiotics and advances in medicine? >> absolutely. the use of antibiotics drastically decreases mortality associated with illegal abortions after the 1930's. it actually contributes to this decline in illegal abortion mortality after. more people are using
antibiotics. more women are choosing to go to a hospital right away if they experience complications from their procedures. this was not the case before the 1930's. if a woman had an illegal abortion in 1910 or the 1920's and she was suffering from complications she often did not go to a physician until it was too late. there were no antibiotics with which to treat those women. it was often too late for a lot of these women who died of infection associated with unclean illegal and unhygienic abortion. after the 1930's, mortality decreases, even in illegal abortions. >> your based in california. where do you go for research? what are your sources? >> i got my first batch at the california state archives in sacramento. most of my research is from their board of medical examiner records. they have folders and folders of these illegal abortions investigation files. that is where i found a lot of this material. in some chapters i focus more on southern california, los angeles area. based sources,.
young research library, also huntington. also mostly california but a lot of material in the l.a. metro area as well. takeaway, one thing surprised you the most? >> good question. thing that surprised much i feltwas how for these women who had to make these complicated decisions for themselves. there is a lot of polarization that happens in the abortion issue to this day. in looking at these investigation files and looking at interviews that law enforcement officers did of
patients, friends or family members, you really empathize with them. you realize they are making a bad decision and an assortment of bad options. element of the human this research. i am writing about deceased women's, using corners records, board of medical examiner files, i am talking about individual amen who lived and died under legal system that was not respecting their own desires or needs. she is a graduate of the university of southern california, now teaching in riverside, joining us from san antonio, thank you for being with us. >> thank you very much for having me. have a nice day. >> the richard dean story does
not end there. this last november, he was forced out of his office when the government shutdown. the second time the government shutdown, he continued helping social security recipients, but he was working without pay. on behalf of richard dean and his family and all the other people out there working every day and doing a good job for the american people, i challenge all of you in this chamber, let us never, ever shut the federal government down again. [applause] >> this weekend on american history tv, tonight at 8:00 eastern on lectures in history, stonehill college professor on how the state of the union has changed since the time of george washington. >> clinton scored here. right?ed politically, we start to see that the address, the lore of politics is
too great for many presidents. this is wilson's small constitutional presidency. it is designed for party leadership. presidents don't avoid the opportunity to use the address to try to score political points. we are way far away from that formal six inc. address -- succint address that george washington would have given, or many of his successors. the truman farm home is located in missouri, 15 minutes from independence. it was built by his grandmother in 1894. the future president lived here from 1906 until he left for world war i in 1917. up next,
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