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What Illegal Abortion Was Like in the 1960s

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2019

Diane Munday, an 86-year-old women’s rights activist, recalls what illegal abortion had been like in the UK in the 1960s.

“Women would drink bleach to try to induce miscarriage. They would have very hot baths, or move heavy furniture, or try to do it themselves with a needle or a crochet hook,” says Munday.

As a result, an underground network of backstreet abortionists ran quietly across the country. Some of them, says Munday, became involved by force. It was not unknown for women who had carried out abortions for their close friends and family to be blackmailed by desperate pregnant women who threatened to report them to the police if they didn’t help them, too. Like women who had abortions, those who carried out the procedure illegally could be sent to prison.

“These people were unskilled. Some might have had a bit of nursing experience or had worked in a hospital, or carried out procedures for a friend or daughter,” says Munday.

Munday became active in the campaign to legalize abortion in the UK after she had one herself following giving birth to three children in less than four years.

See also Harrowing Illegal Abortion Stories from Before Roe v. Wade.