Friday, December 12, 2008

More from Miller: Dr. Gentle, abortionist

Another excerpt from the recently acquired transcript of the W. Richey Miller, MD, oral history--because it's such great stuff! Here, Miller talks about the Eugene medical community and abortions:
Johnston: Is this the doctor that did abortions? There was a doctor–

Miller: Yes.

Johnston: Tell me about it.

Miller: That was our famous Dr. Gentle. He did abortions in Eugene, the only doctor who did. And he did them very well. And almost never got into trouble. If there was any difficulty at all, he could immediately send the patient into the hospital, and there would be a skilled surgeon immediately available who could take care of whatever the problem was. And the entire community, the medical community and people generally, were very happy with this arrangement. Because if Dr. Gentle wasn’t there doing abortions, then it would be somebody else, not a doctor, who didn’t know anything about it, who was just sticking a probe into the uterus, and hoping that aborted the person, and hoping they didn’t perforate the uterus or something. Many people died from those abortions that were called back-alley abortions. So everybody was very happy with Dr. Gentle, who they knew could be trusted and everything would be all right.

And then, one of the doctors for some reason decided that he didn’t like that and he was going to turn Dr. Gentle in, which he did. And they set up a deal for the cops to walk into his treatment room in his office just as he was starting an abortion. So he was convicted and sent to prison. And it happened to be my job to do a physical examination on him before he went to prison. That was a requirement at that time, anyway. So we talked about his career during that examination. And I asked him if he was disappointed or wished he had never done this, and what did he think about it now.

“Oh,” he said, “I just have one regret.” And he said, “That’s because of the people I took care of.” He said, “I’ve worked for doctors and lawyers and businessmen and college professors, and judges.” He said, “Yes, even judges, I’ve worked for. And still, that system is sending me to prison.” He really didn’t like that. And this was a fellow who was well respected in the community. He had a home in a nice neighborhood with nice neighbors.

One of his neighbors was my patient, and she told me what transpired. She went to see him in prison, she and her husband. And she told me about his homecoming. He was in prison about four years, I think. And when he was released, the neighborhood had a big party, welcome home party, with flowers and balloons and cards and everything. Decorated outside his home. And he got a most cordial welcome home and sympathy and appreciation from all of these neighbors. So that’s the way abortions were then.

1 comment:

Gretchen Leffler said...

I didn't know Dr. Gentle, but I lived in Eugene and went to school with his daughter, Alice. I was so thankful for what he did for women that I have always been in favor of women being in charge of their bodies. I will not vote for someone who is against women having the right to decide whether to abort or not to abort.