1962 August 18

Sherrie Finkbein Has Abortion in Sweden: Case Forces National Attention on Abortion Rights


Sherrie Finkbein, a 30-year-old mother of four in Phoenix, Arizona, underwent an abortion in Sweden on this day, after being unable to obtain one in the United States. Mrs. Finkbein had discovered that she had inadvertently taken the drug Thalidomide, which was responsible for the birth of thousands of physically deformed infants in England and Canada. (The side effects of Thalidomide at the time were an international scandal.) Her unsuccessful attempts to obtain an abortion in Arizona touched off the first national debate over the right to abortion. Arizona law at the time permitted abortion only to save the life of the mother. The Royal Swedish Medical Board approved the abortion to protect Mrs. Finkbein’s “mental health.”

Watch a trailer for A Private Matter, a 1992 TV documentary about Sherrie Finkbein’s story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B62kypLO2iI

Read about the impact of her case 50 years later: http://blog.advocatesaz.org/2012/08/15/sherri-finkbines-abortion-its-meaning-50-years-later/

Learn more about the Thalidomide scandal: Trent Stephens and Rock Brynner, Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and its Revival as a Vital Medicine (2009)

Follow a timeline on abortion rights: http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/history_abortion.html

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