Colorado – Abortion Mecca For The Nation?

I spend much of my time working on research for jazz musicians, and associated people for my website. I was looking through old magazines, especially issues of Look magazine for early pictures published by notable American photographer, Pete Turner. These magazines, especially 50’s and 6o’s magazines and culture are real page turners. Old adverts, old news, old styles, old attitudes and old culture.

With the Supreme Court reversing Roe vs. Wade, this one jumped off the page and hit me in the face. It’s reproduced here verbatim. Original image scans of the pages are at the bottom of the page.

What’s clear from this is that the Catholic religious beliefs, and those on the christian far-right, are holding the country at large back and have been for decades. They do so by promoting abortion as some massive scale operation “abortion mills” rather than look at the cause of unwanted pregnancy, and arguing that men must take responsibility as much, if not more so than women to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Women don’t get pregnant on their own, and the suggestion that rape and incest are the leading reason why abortion should be allowed just shows how sick and twisted many men can be. Rape and Incest happen, the article includes a sickening example. That’s not the point though, Women simply should be allowed to determine their own future based on their own circumstances.

This doesn’t meet the patriarchal, male driven control doctrine of the Catholic church, so here we are. Please read the following, let me know by leaving a comment if I’ve made any transcription errors or other issues.

Look Magazine, July 11th, 1967
Volume: 31, Issue: 14
Publisher: H & C Communications Inc.


BY JACK STAR – LOOK Senior Editor

Colorado HAS become the first American slate to liberalize its abortion laws along Scandinavian lines. “You’ll see.” warns Leonard V. Carlin, president of the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild of Denver, “we’ll be the abortion mecca for the nation. ” Dr. Robert J. Stewart, a Denver obstetrician and past president of the Catholic Physicians Guild, is just as worried: “I know my profession well enough: we have a minority group of opportunists who will use the new law to get evert dollar out of it.”

Last year, in Colorado and the other 19 states, an estimated million or more pregnancies were ended by abortion. Nearly all were illegal back-alley affairs, performed in a minority of cases by doctors, but usually by a variety of amateurs, including the pregnant women themselves. Hundreds— some authorities say thousands—of the women died, and many more suffered terrible complications.

Only 8,000 to 12,000 of the million abortions were of the presumably legal therapeutic variety performed in hospitals and authorized by boards of doctors. Actually, even many of these were probably illegal. In 11966, 15 states allowed a therapeutic abortion only to save the life of a mother. Five other states— in practice, no more liberal— also permitted abortions to preserve a woman’s health. Mississippi allowed them for rape too. Doctors therefore had to twist, torture or just plain break their state laws to authorize hospital abortions for 12-year-old mentally defective girls and rape victims as well as women who had suffered damaging illnesses like German measles and whose embryos were as a result threatened with birth defects.

In Colorado, where there are about 40.000 births a year, fewer than 10 therapeutic abortions have been permitted annually. Here, as elsewhere, women without money have the most difficulty in getting a legal abortion. Colorado General Hospital, a tax-supported Denver institution with many charity patients, recorded 1.600 births last year and only one abortion. A local privately endowed hospital had 2,100 births and eight such abortions.

Last April, the legislature greatly broadened legislation Colorado’s century-old abortion law. Now, a panel of three doctors at any of the state’s 16 larger, accredited hospitals can authorize abortions in cases of rape, incest and statutory rape of girls under 16, if the district attorney of the place where the alleged crime was committed certifies there is “probable cause to believe” the violation did occur. The panels can permit an abortion on their own if they decide a pregnancy may seriously and permanently impair a woman’s health or result in “the birth of a child with grave and permanent physical deformity or mental retardation. . . .”

State Rep. Richard ID. Lamm. 31, a Denver lawyer who shepherded the bill through, says the new law simply regularizes what has been going on for a long time. “The medical profession,” he claims, “has been performing abortions for years for all the reasons cited in the present law.”

Attorney Carlin of the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild accuses Lamm and his allies of stifling debate by ramrodding the bill into law with frantic haste. He charges: “This law was greased. It whizzed through like an express train.” Lamm, a freshman in the Colorado House, takes the accusation as a compliment to his planning:

“Our chances were strong from the start because we got 53 of the 100 senators and representatives to join as cosponsors. We spent only $100 in wooing them, and that was mostly for mimeograph paper. We didn’t let a day go by without having a mimeographed statement on their desks from a minister or a doctor or some other authority backing the bill. We made the point that 80 percent of the women seeking an abortion were married and. on the average, had two children previously. We emphasized that it was strictly a health matter.”

The present nationwide campaign to liberalize abortion laws began in 1959 with a model stale penal code proposed by the prestigious American Law Institute. Until last spring, when Colorado and North Carolina liberalized their laws, the campaign was totally unsuccessful. So far this year, legislation has been introduced in 25 other states. Already, at least nine of the proposed bills are dead or tabled, mainly because of strong Roman Catholic opposition. The National Conference of Catholic-Bishops is acting throughout the nation to supply legal, medical and theological advice to Catholic laymen opposing abortion reform.

In Colorado, however, the opposition has been relatively weak. Less than 20 percent of the (copulation is Catholic, and outside Denver, the Catholics are mainly Spanish-Americans, the least influential Coloradans. Furthermore, only 11 of the 100 state legislators are Catholics.

The anti-reform forces are not persuasive. “Looking back. I can see I was wrong,” said Dr. Stewart of the Catholic Physicians Guild, when I asked why he had carried four jars containing fetuses to a committee hearing of the state Senate and attempted to exhibit them to the horrified senators. Didn’t he know he would Ice gaveled down by the offended chairman? Dr. Stewart, a peppery man of some charm, answered:

“I got mad. They said a fetus wasn’t a human being. I wanted to show them they were dealing with babies, not blobs of protoplasm. … I deliver over 40 babies a year. . . . My opposition has nothing to do with my being a Catholic. I’m just sick and tired of them trying to grind us down to acceptance that the state is more important than the individual. . . . The next step is abortion by demand. and after that, we’ll give the state power to rid itself of any one it wants.”

Opponents of the bill offered over 60 amendments. but the most disabling of these were voted down without much trouble. One amendment would have required a court hearing before an abortion could Ice granted, with a lawyer on hand to defend the right of the fetus to be born. Another would have limited abortions to Colorado residents. This, too was voted down when Lamm and others said they did not see how Colorado could constitutionally deny to out-of-state residents a medical service that it permitted for its own citizens. Besides, asked Lamm, who is a resident? Is an Illinois co-ed studying at the University of Colorado a resident? Is the wife of an airman stationed in Denver whose permanent voting address is in New York?

No woman should be forced to bear a child against her will.”

Significantly when North Carolina passed its own reform law. just two weeks after Colorado, it limited abortions to women who have lived in the state at least four months. Abortions are not usually performed after 16 weeks of pregnancy.

“In time, other states will pass laws like ours, “says Colorado’s Lamm. “In the meantime … we have a law we should be proud of . . . one that could help out-of-state women in need, like a pregnant 14-year-old girl or a Sherri Finkbine.” (Mrs. Finkbine drew world attention in 1962. She had to go to Sweden for a legal abortion when Arizona authorities refused to permit one. although she had taken the fetus-damaging drug thalidomide early in her pregnancy.)

It is Colorado’s ability to “help out-of-state women in need” that is provoking somber predictions of the state’s development into an abortion mecca. “We’re not going to become anything of the sort.” says Gov. John A. Love, who signed the bill even though it could have become law without him. “I’m asking the medical societies to keep a careful watch over what happens in the next six months.”

Donald Derry, executive secretary of the Colorado Medical Society, playing it cautiously: “I’m not opposed Io having carefully screened patients coming here from out of the state.” he says. “But remember that this is a small state—our population is only two million. A deluge of out of-state patients could create a problem for our doctors and hospitals. If becomes a problem, then we might have to somehow limit therapeutic abortions to Colorado residents.”

Women coming to Colorado for abortions get a tepid reception. “We
don’t want to lie known as an abortion center; we’re not accepting out-of-state referrals.” says Don L. Arnwine. director of hospitals at the University of Colorado Medical Center.

Dr. Lawrence W. Roessing, a Denver gynecologist who is chairman of the medical committee that passes on abortions at Presbyterian Medical Center, believes that “most out-of-state people will be rejected If there is any great pressure of numbers on our men. we’ll say a flat no. It’s almost going to be harder to get a case past the committee than before.”

Dr. Charles A. Dafoe, another gynecologist at Presbyterian Medical Center, where about ten abortions are performed yearly, says: “The feeling about out-of-state patients is that no woman can get off the airplane and gel an abortion just by showing two letters from two physicians back home saying she should be aborted.” He thinks, however, that it would be
wrong for Colorado doctors to turn their backs on the nonresidents: “You have to have them admitted to the hospital and evaluated locally. But this might mean spending two weeks
in town, may be even in the hospital.”

Over at Denver’s General Rose Memorial Hospital, where only seven or eight abortions are performed annually. Administrator James M. Taylor is convinced “the law is not going to change things essentially. We can’t discriminate against out-of-state women. but I don’t think the numbers will be increased substantially.” Still, in the first week under the new law, the hospital’s abortion committee got five requests from outside of Colorado.

“Don’t quote me.” says one hospital executive, “but the real abuses will come in some small, rural hospital where there may be only three doctors on the staff, and these three will make up the abortion committee. Who will watch them?” State health director Roy L. Cleere replies that his inspectors will make annual tours of all hospitals and also get monthly abortion reports from each of them. “If there is any monkey business going on.” he says, “you can be sure we’ll hear of it. You can’t run an abortion mill without people talking.”

There are already indications that it may take some court cases to determine how freely the law will work. Bert M. Keating, a Catholic who has been district attorney of Denver County for 19 years, told me that he could not certify a woman for an abortion on grounds of rape or incest “unless I have enough evidence to present to a grand jury.” Keating does not believe district attorneys in other states can attest to a rape so a woman can get a Colorado abortion.

Marty Miller, district attorney of Arapahoe County outside Denver, voices a drastically different stand: “My thinking is that the law should be liberally, but not loosely, applied and that it should not discriminate against out-of-state women. As for statutory rape, a girl need only prove that she is under 16. pregnant and has the consent of her parents.”

Miller scoffs at suggestions that the law promotes promiscuity. He says: ”We will make mistakes, but on the whole, it is a progressive step.”

District Attorney Floyd Marks of Adams County welcomes the law as a long-delayed humanitarian measure. Marks, who was the only district attorney to testify in its favor before
legislative committees, cited for the lawmakers two instances in which he thought abortions could have averted terrible tragedies.

“The worst case.” he told me. “Involves a 14-year-old mentally retarded girl who was impregnated by her father. A public hospital in Denver was unable to perform an abortion,
and she had to have her baby. What happened? The father is in prison. His family is on relief. The girl is under a psychiatrist’s care. God knows where the baby is.”

Marks does not believe that a district attorney has to pass on “99 percent of the cases—most come under the authority of the hospital boards. Even in a rape case, the board doesn’t
need the DA’s approval if the mental health of a woman is threatened by the pregnancy.”

Marks feels that it is at last up to the medical profession to handle a long -neglected problem. “The intent of the law.” he says, “is to promote the well-being of the mother, to avoid impairment of her health. If the doctors can’t face up to their responsibilities, this new law will be a farce.”

He dismisses criticism of the reform. “The issue.” he insists, “is simply the right of an individual to have a choice and not be imposed upon by a religious group that may not believe in abortion. After all. there is nothing in the law that forces any one to perform or have an abortion.”

Like a growing number of people, Marks holds the view that the law may not go far enough. He says: “In time. I think we will all accept the proposition that no woman should be forced to bear a child against her will.” While most authorities are not this permissive, the attitude toward abortion is changing rapidly. In a recent nationwide survey, the magazine Modern Medicine found 86.9 percent of 40,089 doctors in favor of some liberalization of existing laws. This overwhelming majority included 19.1 percent of the doctors who said they
were Catholics. Significantly, more than 14 percent of all those surveyed said they would do away with restrictions entirely.

Even if every stale adopts a law like Colorado’s and North Carolina’s, and the number of legal abortions annually increases four- or fivefold, we would still have the problem of a million or more illegal abortions. In the Scandinavian countries, which have liberal policies and free therapeutic abortions, there is still a huge traffic in illegal abortions, and many Swedish and Danish women go to nearby Poland, where pregnancies can be ended on demand.

Nevertheless, the New York Times hailed the Colorado law as “a first positive answer to the dangerous problem of illegal abortions.” Commenting on the defeat recently of a liberalized New York abortion law. The paper said: “Abortion reform should be a priority matter. . . . The cruel medievalism of outmoded laws must yield to the achievements of humane practice and medical science.”

The Journal of the American Medical Association sums up the campaign: “There is already unmistakable evidence of a profound restiveness for a reappraisal and updating of our statutes to keep pace with 20th-century medical practice.” END

6/25/22 Typos from transcription corrected. Thanks Gabe.

Leave a Reply