The Importance of My Grandma’s Illegal 1931 Abortion

16 Jun

In 1931 a 25-year-old mother of two young children was pregnant with her third pregnancy.  It was twins.  But whereas her other pregnancies went fine this one was not going well at all. In fact, her kidneys were failing, probably due to eclampsia. If nothing was done, she and the fetuses she carried would all die.  Abortion was not legal in 1931.  But someone saved her.  Someone, I am told a doctor, provided her an illegal abortion. 

That woman was my grandmother.  She lived.  

“Preeclampsia may lead to kidney disease by causing acute kidney injury, endothelial damage, and podocyte loss. Preeclampsia may be an important sex-specific risk factor for chronic kidney disease,” according to an NIH website.  Although my grandmother did not die in 1931, she was left with failing kidneys.  In fact, she had kidney disease for the next 52 years of her life. 

Grandma decided to go back to Europe with her two children, my Mom and my Uncle, so that when she died they would be raised by their grandmother, as she was sure that she was still going to die. Someone traveled with my grandmother for this trip. In fact, one night she was so sick, they took her up on the deck because she wanted to see the stars one more time before she died.

The doctor who saved her life actually impacted the lives of many people. Because my grandmother lived, my mother and uncle were not left without a mother. Also, as the story continues, because my grandmother lived, others lived as well.

When my Grandmother got to Europe she traveled through Germany to Carlsbad, to take the waters, and then around Poland visiting family for over six months. During these travels her opinion about life in Europe changed drastically. By the end she was much healthier and concerned about taking her children back to the United States to safety.

Why do I say saving her life saved others? She had been traveling through Germany in 1931. She had seen the evil that was taking over Europe with the rise of Hitler.

This is where her surviving preeclampsia and a life saving abortion takes on even more meaning. First, everywhere she went in Poland, she told family and friends to “Get Out! Bad times are coming.” We do not know how many heeded her warning! But we know her story and what she tried to do.

When Grandma came home she had one goal, to get her family and the family of my Grandfather out of Europe! My grandparents worked to bring family members over from Poland and Austria. In the end, they only were able to bring my Grandmother’s father and sister. My Tante was very small for her age, so they changed her age and made her under 21 so she could travel to America on my great grandfather’s papers and visa.

My Tante lived.  She married and had one daughter.  Her daughter married and had three children.  Her children married and among them had 11 children.  

All because my grandmother had an abortion, all because she lived, two people survived and avoided the horrors of the Shoah and 15 descendants were born.  Who knows how many more will be born in the future.

Abortions save lives! The mother’s lives. To me these lives are extremely important. Currently, in this time of legal abortions another relative of mine had eclampsia putting her life and the life of her much wanted fetus at risk. They were both dying in the hospital. The only choice to save one life was an abortion. My cousin lived. Amazingly a year later she was again pregnant and gave birth to a healthy child.

I do not believe anyone, a legislator or a member of the voting public, has the right to tell a woman how to handle her private medical issues. We have HIPAA laws that are supposed to keep our medical history private. What a woman decides, with input from her medical professional, for her own health is her personal business. HIPAA laws are not just for men. They are for everyone.

In the meantime, I support women’s health rights. I support women who make the difficult decision to end a pregnancy. I support their choice and decisions concerning their personal medical health. I know that the right to chose an abortion must remain legal, because I know that saving a mother’s life is vital.

2 Responses to “The Importance of My Grandma’s Illegal 1931 Abortion”

  1. Amy June 16, 2022 at 11:41 am #

    That’s an incredible story and one with a very important message. I wish everyone who is opposed to a woman’s right to choose could and would read it.

    • zicharon June 16, 2022 at 12:17 pm #

      There is truly no consideration of a woman’s health. At the same time no consequence for the man involved . I feel like we have stepped back 100 years.

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