In 1967, eight of the 80 girls in my freshman dorm at Boston University got pregnant (that I knew of!). Abortion was illegal all over the US at the time, and in Massachusetts it was also illegal to give out information about birth control except for a doctor giving it to a married couple. This was no idle threat. Bill Baird, who later won three US Supreme Court cases for birth control rights, was at that time in jail facing ten years in prison for discussing birth control publicly.
Under these circumstances, I decided to act. With a small group of friends, we researched the subject and raised funds to publish a handbook called Birth Control, Abortion and V.D., A Guide for the B.U. Student. We distributed 24,000 copies in small piles around campus. They were gone in a few days. We had expected blowback from the administration, but they were thrilled because of the many student dropouts due to pregnancy. Then Northeastern contacted us to order copies for their students. It was taking off.
That summer I took copies to the National Student Association conference in Kansas and put them into delegate packets with a note giving permission to reprint it adding their own local information, and to send us a copy. Soon I was able to document well over half a million copies were circulated that way. All over the country people were enthusiastic about it. We got letters from such surprising people as the head of OB/GYN at Walter Reade Army Medical Hospital and the Surgeon General of Alabama. Soon others put out pamphlets on the topic (see “Student Printing Presses Bring Birth Control Story to Colleges”). By 1973 Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.
The handbook shows how things were before Roe. At the time, you could only get a legal abortion in the US if you got two doctors to testify that having a baby would kill you. Back then we gave advice on how to get the safest possible illegal abortion or to travel outside the US if you could afford it. To be clear, the handbook should not be used for current medical advice because better medicine is available today.
There were two editions published, the first in 1968 and the second in January 1970. Both are available for viewing or downloading below.
“Birth Control, Abortion and V.D., A Guide for the B.U. Student,” 1st edition, published by the 1968-1969 Boston University Student Congress Birth Control Committee
“Birth Control, Abortion and V. D., A Guide for the B.U. Student,” 2nd edition, published by the 1969-1970 Boston University Student Union
Support JSTOR Daily! Join our new membership program on Patreon today.