Poetry: Illegal by Connie Woodring


You will have difficulty getting pregnant because your uterus is tilted.
Pregnant, but at least I’m married.
My husband is a big city welfare caseworker, so he knows about these things.
He drops me off two blocks from the house.
This doesn’t really make any sense, because everyone knows white women don’t live in this
neighborhood, and they are all going to the same address.
A trash-strewn street with endless row houses all looking the same except for a broken window
here, a television on the sidewalk there. No trees as far as the eye can see.
I knock on the door, and a young black woman answers the door.
The white women and girls are seated in a row in the back room.
Not hidden. An over-zealous cop could come in and arrest the doctor or us.
Who is next? Fearful faces, looking down rather than at each other.
Like inmates on death row who committed the ultimate crime---having an unwanted pregnancy.
I’m escorted into the dining room.
I am on a hard wooden table with a sheet over me,  
no padding except a small white pillow for my head.
A large round black woman with a scarf on her head is smiling down at me
and holding my hand.
“Oh, Aunt Jemima, please help me!”
She says,” Don’t you worry now, everything gonna be okay.”
The male doctor says, “I’m going to pack your uterus. You will stay overnight and
sleep. Tomorrow I take out the packing, and you are free to go when you feel well enough.”
The procedure begins.
No anesthesia, no sterile environment.
Not too painful but uncomfortable.
“You will have cramping when you get up.”
I get up, almost faint and crawl up the steps. No one helps me, including Aunt Jemima
who is now smiling at the next criminal.
I sleep all night in spite of excruciating pain.
The next morning I am ridding myself of this invader.
Painless extraction, no cramps anymore.
No one offers any breakfast,
but there is bread on the kitchen table and everyone is making toast.
Again, no one really talks to each other about what they went through except for
“I can’t wait to get home,” “I’ll never sleep with my boyfriend ever again,” “I hope no one
knows where this place is.”
I pay the doctor $200 in cash. No receipt.
I walk two blocks to my husband’s car. My legs feel like they are not attached to my hips,
so I don’t know how I manage.
He hugs me, helps me into the car.
We don’t speak about what happened either.
“I just need to rest.”
We are in bed together.
My body starts to feel like it is vibrating, electrified. I am exhausted and yet felt invigorated,
like I could run ten miles.
After a while, I turn to my husband and say, “I wonder what I’d feel like today if abortion
were legal.”
He just holds my hand… “Hmm.”

Connie Woodring is a 76-year-old retired psychotherapist who is getting back to her true love of writing after 45 years in her real job. She has had many poems published in over 35 journals including one nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize. She has also had seven excerpts from her yet-to-be-published novel, Visiting Hours published in various journals.


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