My great-aunt Nellie died from abortion-induced peritonitis in 1913. My grandmother told me this when I was 19. She also told me that in 1925 she - my grandmother - became pregnant with her 4th child, my mother. My grandmother was a busy grocery store owner. In the Roaring Twenties women were feeling their independence and their rights. All her friends, she said, urged her to have an abortion. There was no mention of sin (she was Catholic), only decisions to be made. My grandmother remembered her beloved Nellie and was scared to die... so she went ahead... my mother was born... and I am here.
Later I got the transcript of the coroners inquest for Nellie's "homicide": http://www.madinpursuit.com/Family/Barrett/FlanaganNellie02.htm. It's a chilling tale and my heart aches for Nellie's last desperate hours. But the rippling of her story through my history gives me more questions than conclusions. It reminds me that life is fabulously complex and decisions echo wondrously through history.
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