We are incredibly lucky here at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington to have a longtime, dedicated volunteer by the name of Lorie Lucky. Lorie is a decades-long defender of women’s and reproductive rights. She’s worked in a myriad of places in a very multidisciplinary fashion. Studying political science and sociology as an undergrad at Washington State University, she later spent 15 years working in elementary particle physics at the University of Washington, and was the manager of the Department of Statistics. Naturally, we thought it was about time to hear more of her experiences. Our interview follows below. Some dialogue has been edited for reading clarity.
Michelle Auster: Where and how were you raised? And what is like in general before Roe v. Wade?
Lorie Lucky: My parents were almost two generations behind me. My mother and father had a very equal relationship. She was 40 and he was 47 when I was born. I had a pretty idealistic upbringing, I lived in a large house next to an orchard in Wenatchee, and my parents had been settled for 10 years so they were really stable. Back then I was going to school in the early ’50s in a farm town and there weren’t any sexual education classes at all. In sixth grade, with permission of our parents, we could come with our mothers, and we learned about periods and women’s internal organs, and that was it.
MA: What was it like for young women before Roe v. Wade?
LL: I wasn’t particularly good looking in high school, I was skinny and I had thick glasses, and sex didn’t come up. It did maybe for other girls, but it didn’t for me. I only matured when I got into college, and college is when it came up. Later on, when I became active, I asked my mother about abortion in her time. She said that in the late ’30s and ’40s, there was a chiropractor in Wenatchee that was doing [abortions].
I remember at Washington State [University], women were always worried about this. There were rumors going around about a place you could go in Colfax, or the Smith Tower in Seattle. When I got over here, I stayed with two women. When I left there later on, a girl who I went to high school with told me that one of those women had become pregnant by a man who had just finished law school. His parents sent him on a trip to Europe and when he got back, he said he would marry her. He decided not to in the end, so she got a back room abortion. She bled for 30 days afterwards. Finally her friend told her she had to go to see a doctor.
I was one of the first members of Seattle NOW when it came together in the early 70s, and I was their employment task force coordinator. I moved over to NARAL and started working as a volunteer in the early 80s, and then when the Abortion Access Network started, of course I helped with that. So I’ve actually been keeping women in my house for 20 years. Now I receive women on average once every six weeks. Sometimes it’s been once every six months, sometimes less, of course now it’s more often because of the abortion-limiting laws in other states. Most women come from out of state, although some from in rural counties in Washington as well. Idaho’s kind of a problem state.
MA: Can you tell me more about your experiences with the Abortion Access Network?
LL: I had a really kind of upsetting woman a couple of years ago because she had been sexually assaulted by her husband. She was a low-income woman, and she had left him and moved away. After six years, he made noise about wanting to see her kids, and they were curious, so she arranged a weekend meeting. When she went back to pick up the kids, he pulled her into the bedroom and assaulted her. Rape is one of the causes that you can get an abortion in her state, but she didn’t have a police case, because, in the city where the assault occurred, she was told that if she was still married to him (which she was), it wouldn’t be a good case.
MA: So there was no acknowledgement of marital rape?
LL: Not by the police department. That was about three years ago. She had continued to have periods, so she was well into her second trimester before she knew she was pregnant. She already had two children, and she was in school. Also she was low-income, and low-income women tend to be low on the pecking order of police departments. These women are very brave.
MA: How were you first introduced to reproductive rights? Was there a specific time or was it as you grew up?
LL: Well, when I wanted to have sex myself, it was at a time which is hard for young people to understand now. I remember going home from college and telling this doctor that I was going to get married, so I needed birth control. Because, when it first came out, it was only married women who could have it. Theoretically, you were supposed to be a virgin when you were getting married. It was between about 1963 to 1967 that that went on, and probably longer in rural areas.
But I always believed that a woman should have the right to do what she chose to do with her body. I’m also married to an African-American person, so I’m very sensitive to the rights of others. My son was harassed by the police when he was a teenager, and all of the above.
When I started working in 1967, ’68, I was making about 40 to 45 cents to the man’s dollar. 48 cents was the average in 1970. So there has been a huge, huge change in culture since then, and I find it very rewarding as a feminist to see the kinds of jobs that young women can have now, which is just about everything! When I was in high school, you could be a secretary, a teacher, a nurse, or a homemaker. My parents said you’ll go to college and get a good education, and everything would be fine. Well, it wasn’t exactly fine!
Q: What’s one thing that you’d like future reproductive rights activists, or women in general, to know?
A: It’s your body, it’s your choice. I think the most important people in this chain are the providers, and the staff in the clinics. They’re the people who are not only out on the front lines for women in ending their pregnancies, but they’re also at risk every day.
Our gratitude to Lorie Lucky for contributing her time and voice to this interview.