Letters to Justice Blackmun Offer Glimpse of Public’s Post-‘Roe’ Reactions

January 22, 2015

Nine months after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, a woman named Katherine T. wrote Supreme Court Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of the case’s majority opinion, a rambling letter detailing her illegal abortion and expressing her gratitude.

“I, Katherine the ‘pure,’ who had studied catechism at the age of six, who had felt so guilty at the age of seven upon stealing a paper card from my best girl friend that I never again committed (to my knowledge) an illegal act (save a few parking violations here and there), had suddenly become one of the ‘bad girls,’ which centuries of our ‘Christian’ traditions have condemned as the worst of the worst,” Katherine wrote about finding herself pregnant and unmarried in 1967. She’d arranged an abortion, she told Blackmun, getting in the car of an unknown “racketeer,” not sure “where he was taking me or knowing what would happen to me.” At the time of her letter, in October 1973, Katherine was married with “a wanted son and a wanted daughter who with all their insatiable demands continue to be the jewels of our lives!!!” In hindsight, she mused that “it is more than the right to choose legal abortion that you have secured for us. Somehow, with that ruling, I felt you were also recognising me as a more fully human being.”


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