Legendary actress Rita Moreno, perhaps most well-known for her role as Anita in the classic film, “West Side Story,” responded to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade by sharing about the abortion she had as a young woman.
In an interview with Variety, Moreno said she was dating superstar actor Marlon Brando when she became pregnant. “Marlon found a doctor through some friends,” she said. “He was a real doctor — Marlon paid him $500 — as opposed to something in a back alley.”
Moreno had previously written about the abortion in her 2011 memoir, in which she claimed to have been abused by Brando, stating that he forced her into the abortion. But the procedure failed. “Marlon took me to the hospital. I had what they told me was a ‘disturbed pregnancy,’” she said. “The doctor didn’t do anything really, except make me bleed. In other words, he didn’t do it right. I didn’t know it then, but I could have died. What a mess. What a dreadful mess.”
In her book, she said that afterwards, the abortion — coupled with Brando’s infidelity — caused her to try to take her own life. “I could read him like a book, and that’s why he loved me, and that’s why he mistreated me in so many ways. I tried to end my life with pills in his house,” Moreno said. “That’s how I tried to do it. I didn’t understand that if I was going to kill this pathetic, sad, trod-upon Rita, the rest of Rita was also going to go with me. I really didn’t seem to understand that. But that’s what the attempt was. It was an attempt.”
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Moreno, now 90, said she now fears for the young women of today. “I can see that thing happening now and going back to back alleys,” she said. “I’m really nervous and frightened and horrified that this is taking place.”
Yet today, even with abortion allegedly being safe due to its legality, abortions are still botched on a regular basis and many women have died from legal abortions. Women are still being injured and killed from abortions; making them legal in Roe v. Wade made no difference. And before Roe, women were not dying by the thousands — something former Planned Parenthood medical director Mary Steichen Calderone even admitted. Deaths had been declining for a long time before Roe, as Calderone said 90% of abortions were committed by trained physicians, not random people in back alleys with coat hangers.
The discovery of treatments like penicillin also helped; by 1972, the number of deaths in the United States from legal abortions was 24, with only 39 deaths from illegal abortions.
Moreno has every right to feel traumatized by her botched abortion. But as long as abortionists continue inflicting this violence on women, more women will go through the same thing she did. The answer is not to make abortion more common; it’s to finally bring it to an end, forever.
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