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'60s Icon Paul Krassner Reveals His Early History with Abortion

Publishing a satirical magazine led Krassner to run an underground abortion referral service.

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“That's not true,” I said, refusing to shake hands with him.

If I had ever accepted any money, I'd have no way of knowing that he was bluffing. The D.A. was angry, but he finally had to let me go.

Attorney Gerald Lefcourt (later president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) filed a suit on my behalf, challenging the constitutionality of the abortion law. He pointed out that the district attorney had no power to investigate the violation of an unconstitutional law, and therefore he could not force me to testify.

In 1970, I became the only plaintiff in the first lawsuit to declare the abortion laws unconstitutional in New York State. “Later, various women’s groups joined the suit,” Lefcourt recalls, “and ultimately the New York legislature repealed the criminal sanctions against abortion, prior to the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade.”

Dr. Spencer never knew about that. He died in 1969. The obituary in the New York Times acknowledged the existence of his abortion clinic. The obituary in the local paper in Ashland did not.

I continued to carry on my underground abortion referral service. Each time, though, I would flash on the notion that this was my own mother asking for help, and that she was pregnant with me. I would try to identify with the fetus that was going to be aborted even while I was serving as a conduit to the performance of that very abortion. Every day I would think about the possibility of never having existed, and I would only appreciate being alive all the more.

Pretending to be the fetus was just a way of focusing on my role as a referral service. I didn't want it to become so casual that I would grow unaware of the implications. By personalizing it, I had to accept my own responsibility for each fetus whose potential I was helping to disappear. That was about as mystical as I got. Maybe I was simply projecting my own ego.

In any case, by the time these women came to me for help, they had already searched their souls and made up their minds. This was not some abstract cause faraway–these were real people in real distress–and I just couldn't say no. So I made a choice to abort myself every time. For nearly a decade, that became my fetal yoga. And, in the process, I had evolved from a satirist into an activist.

This is the first of six monthly columns by Paul Krassner. He published The Realist from 1958-2001. His latest book is an updated edition of his autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture , available at

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