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Thu Jul 5, 2018, 01:20 PM

Daring to Remember: From El Paso to Juarez and Back Before Roe (NEVER AGAIN)

Daring to Remember: From El Paso to Juarez and Back Before Roe (NEVER AGAIN)

This post is part of Daring to Remember, an ongoing series of stories from the years before Roe v. Wade. We must remind the country what a nation without any safe, legal abortion access looks like. We must remind our lawmakers what women’s lives without abortion access look like—and the devastating ways in which an end to abortion access is an end to our freedom. We are fighting for Roe by publishing women’s stories of life without it. We are daring to remember. Submit a story here.

El Paso’s second ward in 1972. (Photo by Danny Lyon for the National Archives.)

My abortion at 16 years old in 1967 was decided on by my mother and the father of my boyfriend. I was sent alone on a plane to El Paso, where I was instructed to take a cab—but not a Yellow cab—to Juarez and go to a supermarket, telling customs that I was going shopping. I was given a secret number to ask for if approached to make sure it was the right person. At the supermarket, a man approached me and told me to get into his car. I did as told and I was driven around and around for about a half-hour and then into a middle-class neighborhood. As we entered the driveway, the garage door was opened by a woman inside and then quickly closed. I was led to a living room, where I sat with two other girls. When my name was called, I was interviewed by the doctor who asked for the agreed-upon money and then demanded $200 more—or he would turn me away. I had about $75 more for food and cabs, and I gave it all to him. He called me a whore.

He led me into a bedroom, where I removed my clothes and was given a gown. I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into a converted operating room with the doctor, the woman who had lifted the garage door and another man. They gave me ether. At one point in the procedure, I heard all of them yelling at me: “Breathe!” “Breathe!” I came out of the ether fog and heard them clearly but I couldn’t make my lungs work. The doctor still had an instrument inside of me and I could feel the pain. The other man socked me in the stomach, hard, and I gasped for breath. Then they put the ether back on me and I was out again. When I woke up a few hours later, I was laying in the bedroom with the other girls. The woman came in and put three tampons tied together inside of me and a large pad. She told me to get dressed. I was led back to the car and driven about five minutes away into a very sketchy neighborhood and dropped off in front of a bar. It was night, and there were many men hanging around outside. I had no money for food or a cab back to the United States. I was crying.

. . . . . .

I could have died at that man’s home, died standing in front of that bar or bled to death at home. No one should ever have to go through what I did. I felt defeated, ashamed, branded, lost all self esteem. I don’t know who the man was who drove me back to El Paso or why he did it. I am thankful to him—the one person who showed me kindness during that ordeal.


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