1983: The Birth of Late Term Abortion

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1983: The Birth of Late Term Abortion

I was eighteen years old in 1983. Ronald Reagan was one of Time Magazine’s Men of the Year, Swatch watches were all the rage, Return of the Jedi was number one at the box office, and Irene Cara’s What a Feeling was blasting from boom boxes all across the nation. But there were other cultural shifts happening, too.

We drove toward Los Angeles in a borrowed, hopped-up, navy blue Chevy Camaro. Like most days in Southern California, it was hot, sticky, and the smog was so thick that the sun was a pinpoint in the sky. The streets were littered with trash. Graffiti-covered concrete buildings, concrete streets, and concrete parking lots oppressed the occasional, defiant tree trying desperately to break the monotony. Legions of the human race lie in doorways, encumbered by layers of soiled clothing, some holding little signs that read, “Every little bit helps.” For two young, naïve small-town girls, it was pure culture shock.

We arrived at the clinic early that morning. I walked my friend into the unassuming, concrete building. But the human anguish we’d witnessed outside was nothing compared to what we saw within: no less than twelve hospital-like gurneys, each with a dreary white sheet at its foot, arranged in two columns lining each side of a large room, held girls and women lying prone in each one. Their ages ranged from the oldest in her mid-thirties down to one twelve-year-old girl, all in various stages of the procedure. Their faces all bore the same expressions: desperation, fear, and resignation. I stood in the doorway, unable to take my eyes off the youngest girl. I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought such a young, innocent girl to this place. She was just a baby herself.

After a short wait, my friend and I were escorted in, where she changed into one of the dingy hospital gowns that lie on the gurney that would become hers for the next eight hours. She now resembled the rest of the women. Then, unceremoniously, some sort of medicine—I didn’t know what—was injected into her seventeen-year-old arm. The nurse asked me to leave, instructing my return eight hours later, when it was all finished. I was not witness to what happened next, but my friend was five months pregnant, at the very limit for a late-term abortion.

As requested, I returned to the clinic that evening, anxious and concerned for my friend. But the friend I’d come to know was not there; she was despondent and dull, like a shell-shocked soldier coming home from battle. I swung my arm around her shoulder and walked her out to our waiting car.

We sat together in that Camaro, silently, until the waning light had gone. She wept quietly as I held her hand in mine, but we said nothing. We stayed that way for what seemed like hours, until finally, she turned to me, and through tears, in a quiet whisper, she said, “It came out…in the toilet…it was a boy.” There were no words. It was the last time we broached the subject.

My friend and I eventually drifted apart. Like so many others running from their demons, she fell into the waiting arms of alcohol, drugs, and addiction. I couldn’t save her from that, either.

Thirty years later, those words whispered through the darkness, and the image they seared into my memory, still haunt me. I fluctuate between feelings of guilt for driving her, and walking her into, that clinic on that scorching summer day in 1983, to a sick gratitude for opening my eyes to the torture and barbarism that is late-term abortion.

There are those who will vehemently, with violence if necessary, defend a woman’s “right to choose,” no matter what. And to these people I say, “You have no idea.”


Last week, a representative for Planned Parenthood stood before a legislative body, advocating for the right to complete the “termination,” outside of the womb, of infants who survive attempted abortions. Please watch:

144,000 late-term abortions are performed annually, and yes, infants do sometimes survive. Planned Parenthood wants the right to murder those babies on the operating table. A survivor speaks:

An explanation of the procedure that was likely performed on my friend. It was first used in 1983.

A court case from that year:
V. Setting the Stage for Casey: Webster v. Reproductive Health Services
“The 1983 Supreme Court decisions in City of Akron, Ashcroft, and Simopoulos settled questions relating to hospital requirements for second trimester abortions, informed consent requirements, waiting periods, parental notification and consent, and disposal of fetal remains. The Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision in Roe and its intention to continue to follow the trimester framework balancing a woman’s constitutional right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy with the State’s interest in protecting potential life. The State’s interest in protecting potential life becomes “compelling” at the point of viability, i. e., when the fetus can exist outside of a woman’s womb either on its own or through artificial means. The definition of viability is the one used by the Court in its Roe decision in 1973. Again, in 1986, the Court reaffirmed Roe in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

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