Gary Raymond and his mother, Elizabeth, usually wouldn’t sit down at the table for breakfast. It was 1963; he was in seventh grade and usually just grabbed something quick before rushing off to class. When his mom suggested they take a seat, Gary knew that something was wrong.
His father, Sherwin, hadn’t come home last night, his mother began, and then handed him the morning copy of their local Bergen Record. “I remember unfolding that and seeing a picture of my father on the front page, top of the front page,” Gary said almost six decades later, now a retired social worker who lives in Washington, D.C. “She said he’d been arrested for performing abortions.” He had no idea what an abortion was.
His mother, who hadn’t yet spoken to her husband since the arrest, began to describe abortion to her son—detailing it as something that women needed, something that was difficult and necessary. Elizabeth spoke of her mother, who had given herself an abortion (via gasoline or turpentine, Gary can’t quite remember now), and of her grandmother, his great-grandmother, who had an abortion too.
“The emotion that’s coming up for me” he told me, holding back tears, “is really about how hard it must have been for my mother to have to sit down with her young son and explain this to him, when she had not a lot of time to process this already.”
Gary, now 71, is part of a dwindling group whose parents were arrested, charged, and incarcerated for performing abortions in a pre-Roe world. His experience growing up at the center of a national debate around abortion provides a window into another group of children, one that’s just now emerging in a post-Roe world, whose parents are risking their lives and livelihood to keep providing abortions for pregnant people.
In Arizona, a century-and-a-half-old law mandating prison time for abortion providers could be put into effect. In Texas, under the trigger ban Governor Greg Abbott signed in June, doctors could face life in prison or $100,000 in fines if they perform abortions. And in Mississippi, the home of the case that brought down Roe v. Wade, a doctor performing (or even attempting) an abortion could be charged with a felony offense and up to 10 years in prison. The criminalization of doctors who provide often lifesaving, life-affirming care to pregnant people leaves their children in the crosshairs, forced to bear the collateral damage of a system that wants to at best harass and at worst lock up their parents.