Screams from a Southern Town: Why we need Roe v Wade

WARNING: This content contains references to incest, rape, and abortion. Editor’s note:
I was recently approached by Charlotte County Democrat Judith Fincher to relate her personal story about rape and abortion in 1957. She and I believe that her experience is particularly important as the Senate considers confirming Brett Kavanaugh as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Kavanaugh is widely expected to change the balance of the Court particularly as it considers issues that would restrict abortion. Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 when the Court ruled in the landmark case Roe v. Wade. Please watch her story  on video or read it below and consider how women’s rights could be impacted. – Jim Blue, Communications Chair, Charlotte Co. Democratic Party

Click on the image below to WATCH the video

Author: Judith A Fincher
Editor: Renee DesRosiers
Producer: Jim Blue

Words from the Author:
This story is about women’s reproductive rights and is based on the story of my own family. It describes our reproductive choices and options from 1930 until 1957. Members of my family were butchered and killed by a town that specialized in the illegal abortion business—and did so openly. At the same time, a doctor who treated a woman dying from a botched abortion could lose his license and all persons involved could go to jail. The hypocrisy that existed before Roe v Wade (1973) must be told. The new generation must fully appreciate why we must fight the current Supreme Court nominee with all the ammunition at hand!!


Screams from a Southern Town: Why we need Roe v Wade


Recently I was reminded as to why I am a Democrat and why we still need Roe v Wade. I attended a Republican-sponsored candidates’ night A suit and tie man accosted me with hand extended as I entered the hall. He went directly into his sales pitch without stopping to find out who I was or why I was there. Wow, was he in for a surprise!
I listened impatiently while he rattled off his God and Country campaign slogans and then began an anti-abortion tirade. I slammed down the pamphlet he had thrust into my hand, saying, “I don’t need this!. You don’t know anything! You don ‘t know what you’re talking about! I was raped when I was 13. It was incest and I got pregnant. My mother took me to a backdoor abortionist in a nearby town. He butchered me so that I could never have children!”
Without being taken aback or appearing upset, the candidate continued: “Ah, at least you don’t have to worry about that now! There is the morning-after pill.” People were now gathering around us now to listen. He continued triumphantly, “And besides, backdoor abortions don’t happen anymore.”
He seemed proud of himself and totally unaware that the “morning after” pill by his own definition is also abortion or that improved conditions are a direct result of Roe v Wade. I was also reminded of the large number of women who cannot afford a legalized abortion or who for cultural, religious or logistical reasons cannot get one. Women in desperation will resort to age-old remedies such as knitting needles, herbs, and coat hangers. More recently, they may opt for a chemical abortion to keep it private and perhaps hidden from their families, even their husbands or partners. In some cultures, even within the U.S., an unmarried pregnant daughter can be disposed of as an “honor killing.” That is consistent with the long-held notion that women are men’s property.
I was shaking with anger and dared not raise my voice for fear of losing control. The last thing I wanted was to make a scene that would play into his hands. Now his security people were headed our way. Deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, I turned around and joined the other Republican and Independent candidates speaking in the auditorium. Much to my dismay, this same idiot gave the invocation. I felt sick.
My own rape and abortion happened decades before Roe v Wade in 1973. I was pregnant and had no idea what was happening to my body. I fainted at school but didn‘t put two and two together. I had missed my period for a couple of months and was delighted. I thought maybe it had started prematurely since I was so very young (I think at 12).
One day my mother pulled me out of school, saying only that we were going to visit my great-aunt Lilly. And that’s all she said. She did nothing to prepare me for what was about to happen. Not even a hint!

Instead, my mother and her sister, Aunt Bea, drove to another small town about an hour away. We pulled up in front of a big two-story house. I was impressed that my mother and aunt even knew people who lived in houses like that. Still without a word to me, they led me upstairs to a bare white room, smelling of unfamiliar chemicals. There they stripped me and laid me on a metal table with concave trenches along the sides. I can still feel that coldness against my back and buttocks. That’s all I remember. Maybe I fainted. More likely, as a victim of early children sexual abuse, I dissociated. It took me many years and several therapists before I could say, “funeral home.”
Afterwards, we drove for what seemed hours over bumpy, dusty roads to my Aunt Lilly’s house. I was kneeling on the floor behind the driver’s seat, bent double with horrible cramps. No painkillers. Afraid to cry. My Aunt Bea in the front passenger seat leaned over and whispered loudly to my mother, “You don ‘t reckon she’s hemorrhaging?” My mother responded without turning around, “Nah, it’s like her father says, she’s always faking.”
We arrived at Aunt Lilly’s rustic farmhouse where water came from a well, an oil lamp gave light, and the toilet was a stinking outhouse. I stayed there for hours, bleeding into that dark hole and wiping myself with corncobs. Like — she never heard of toilet paper?! Finally, Aunt Bea came for me. We were going home. That’s the end of those memories.

That was in 1957. Travel back thirty years earlier. See a woman on a bus, all alone. Blood soaking her dress. It’s my beautiful Aunt Lilly Mae, my mother’s elder sister, headed home after a botched abortion. My Grandmother rushed to her, alerted by a neighbor., but she could do nothing to staunch the bleeding. She begged her family physician to come. He reluctantly agreed, but cautioned, “I could lose my license. We could both go to jail. NEVER tell anyone that I treated a woman who had just had an abortion.” His efforts were in vain and Lilly Mae died shortly afterward. For decades the family story was that she died in childbirth and was laid to rest with her baby in her arms. Only the women knew the truth.
Only a month ago, I learned that the town where abortions were handed out like candy was well known for this horrible business. As Monty Python would say it was NOD, NOD, WINK, WINK. Everybody in that town was “in on it.”

Even the children knew. My first cousin who lived there in the early 1930’s recalled hearing women screaming from second-floor windows of houses in the alleyways. It was the route he and his schoolmates used to go to school and where they played. Women undergoing abortions were screaming, suffering without painkillers, without anesthesia, without clean sanitary conditions.
Roe v Wade made abortion legal. It did not make it affordable. Repeal of this law, such as the Republicans are advocating in their campaign platforms and in their support for an anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice, would plunge us back into this horrific past. They would roll back progress of many kinds. Women will still get pregnant and men cannot. That is a fact of life. No man has the right to determine a woman’s reproductive choices. Women are not property to be used for the pleasure and ego of men. For reasons known only to herself and her doctor, a woman must have the ultimate decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.

Listen to the screams emanating from this small southern town. Hear what they are saying. No longer are these screams a dirty little secret, hidden behind the town’s hypocritical walls.

These screams reach out to you and to me and to the world.



Judith A Fincher: BIO
I am a 73-year-old white woman living in Florida. I retired from an IT career in 2017 and worked previously as an International Development consultant and as a feature writer for my hometown newspaper. I was a Fulbright Scholar (United Kingdom, 1967-69). I have a Ph.D. in U.S. history (as Judith Fincher Laird), a Master’s degree in British history, and a B.A. from Winthrop College, Rock Hill, S.C. I am a lifelong Democrat and actively supported President Barak Obama and Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Governor in Florida.

Fran Newton, September 7, 2018, email to Renee DesRosiers:
“Strong! Wow! A must-read for anyone!! I worked for Planned parenthood 48+ years ago an no one ever addressed this issue better than Judith!