March 02, 2011
Onward to the Past

In 1960 I wrote a mystery which went unpublished because I was too young and stupid to make a handful of changes the editor wanted.

By now I barely remember the plot, except that the murder somehow hinged on an abortion doctor’s efforts to avoid prison — abortion being illegal although common in most states.

The idea came to me from my stepfather, who then lived in Virginia’s horse country. A gynecologist friend of his was correctly suspected of performing abortions, and the more respectable physicians of Rappahannock County called an unofficial meeting of the local power structure to decide how to deal with this outrage.

In the middle of this, the abortionist himself showed up and took the floor. “I thought I might be able to help you fellows out,” he said, and began to list the wives and daughters of the gentry assembled on whom he had performed abortions. He had barely begun when the sense of the meeting was discovered to be that the state police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney should immediately turn their attention to other matters.

For years my manuscript lay quietly in various attics, and in 1973 Roe v. Wade gave it the final coup de grâce. The book’s motive for murder would now seem a quaint anachronism, like speakeasies or the Hays Office.

But time, in the United States, has a way of running backwards

Though Personhood USA has a reach into every state — and has collected almost 1 million signatures supporting personhood legislation throughout the country — the umbrella organization and its affiliates are currently throwing the most effort at Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.

On Valentine’s Day, Personhood began a matching program and challenged supporters to help raise $50,000 to make $100,000 to push anti-abortion rights legislation in North Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Mississippi. Today is the last day of the challenge.

Mississippi is the biggest target, as it has a personhood amendment on the ballot that will get a vote in November. If passed, the constitutional amendment would effectively make abortion illegal.

—and now has caught up with my poor little manuscript. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find the damned thing.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 02, 2011 08:27 PM
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And of course abortions are more common in the Bible Belt than in the blue states. As are murder, drug addiction, infant mortality, divorce, lousy health care, and lousy schools. They're number one in guns, though. So take that, you latte sipping wimps! (P.S. I was born in Alabama and lived there till I was old enough to escape.)

Posted by: Mamasan on March 3, 2011 10:11 AM

I hope you find it. Sounds like a fun read.

Posted by: John Gall on March 3, 2011 12:31 PM

I'm afraid it's gone, John. I've looked everywhere (well, except where it is) without luck. And all I can remember is that the manuscript contained a very fine description of wet autumn leaves stuck to the blacktop in a parking lot. If I ever have occasion to describe wet leaves again, however, I'll be starting from scratch. Stunningly good though my youthful effort was, I can't recall a word of it.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on March 3, 2011 1:04 PM

Well, get to work! A good idea is a terrible thing to waste.

Posted by: karen marie on March 3, 2011 1:54 PM
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