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Abortions, Georgetown Hospital, and the 1960s


The reproductive justice framework centers access, not choice. The current legality of abortion does not mean that abortion services are accessible to everyone. Class discrimination in the form of the Hyde Amendment, geographic distance and transportation barriers, lack of affordable childcare, transphobia in the healthcare system, and much more contribute to the inaccessibility of abortion services, particularly for people of color and low-income folks. Intersecting oppressive structures have reserved full access to reproductive healthcare for the most privileged in our society, and that has been the case even before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in this country. And with recent legislative efforts in various states to effectively ban abortion services, it is important to remember that a ban is never a ban for everyone; in the context of these oppressive structures, abortion “bans” are inherently discriminatory. Individuals with class, racial, and geographic privilege – among others – have always had and will always have access to abortion services in one way or another. H*yas for Choice has acquired personal testimony that highlights how our own Georgetown University Hospital contributed to this reality, and sheds light on the institution’s hypocrisy in its so-called ‘ethical’ guidelines.

Steven Bavaria (SFS’ 69) writes [edited for length and clarity]:

ABORTIONS, GEORGETOWN HOSPITAL AND THE 1960's

(A Personal Reflection 50 Years Later)

"Abortions were ALWAYS available, even at prestigious Catholic hospitals, if you were wealthy, or well-insured, or well-connected.

"Many Americans have no memory of what life was like before Roe v. Wade, but I got an exposure to one aspect of it during the summer I worked at Georgetown Hospital in 1967. I was in the School of Foreign Service, class of 1969, majoring in international economics and knowing nothing about medicine. But I desperately needed a summer job and managed to land one in the medical records department at Georgetown Hospital.

"I worked normal daytime hours three days a week, but on weekends I worked the all-night shift. That involved physically walking every floor of the building in order to take what they called a ‘census’ of the hospital. Besides checking every room to see if it was occupied or not, so the business office could be sure they were billing appropriately, I also picked up al