Tag Archives: Pima County

Margaret Sanger in Tucson: “Daring to Live”

“When the marvel of the spring came to the desert, you saw the cactus and the flowering, saw the brown floor change to delicate pale yellow, stood in awe of nature daring to live without water. You were reminded of the futility of wearing out your life merely providing food and raiment. Like the challenge of death, which so many of the people there were gallantly facing, the desert itself was a challenge.” – Margaret Sanger on Tucson, in her autobiography

Margaret Sanger in 1959, with friend Grace Sternberg, returning to the United States after a trip to New Delhi, Sanger's final overseas trip.

Margaret Sanger moved to Tucson in the 1930s and soon thereafter decided to live here full time, believing that the warm climate was conducive to good health. During Sanger’s years in Tucson, she latched onto any health fad or other technique she thought might improve her health. She exercised and experimented with various diets, including fasting on juice; eating a combination of yogurt, wheat germ, and honey; taking vitamin E supplements; and eating papayas (which she had shipped from Hawaii) for their alleged “restorative substances.”

In 1949, however, Sanger suffered a heart attack, and her son Stuart, a doctor, injected her with Demerol, a recently introduced painkiller not considered addictive at the time. The next year she had a second heart attack, resulting in another long convalescence at the hospital. Her addiction to Demerol intensified; she got Stuart to write prescriptions for her, and would sometimes falsely claim that bottles of the drug had fallen and shattered, which would require further prescriptions to be written. If a nurse refused her demand for Demerol, Sanger would inject it herself. Her son tried to wean her from the drug by collecting empty bottles and filling them with a diluted concentration of the drug, slowly increasing the proportion of water to Demerol until the solution was pure water. This was effective for a while, but eventually Sanger realized she had been duped and endeavored to get her hands back on the drug. She went through other doctors, firing them when they would decrease her dosage, and eventually took to self-administering injections of pure water every 30 minutes. Her addiction, it seemed, was both to the drug itself and the psychological comforts of the injection.  Continue reading

One Vote Can Tip the Balance: The Battles for Reproductive Care

David Yetman and Annette Everlove, 1977

For Kino Community Hospital, it was the end of abortion services. But for Annette Everlove it was the beginning of a career in law that continues to this day, and for David Yetman it was the beginning of his 12-year stint as a Pima County Supervisor. And for Americans, it was the beginning of a nationwide debate.

It was 1977, just four years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In the early days of abortion’s legality, access to the procedure was still extremely limited. There were only one or two private practitioners who provided abortion access in the entire city of Tucson.

And then there was Kino Community Hospital.

As a county-owned public hospital, Kino’s services were provided to its patients free of charge. Consequently, it was the sole source of medical care for many of Tucson’s poor. Shortly after Kino opened its doors in 1977, a Pima County Supervisor learned that the hospital was performing abortions. The question of whether or not Kino would be permitted to continue abortion services was put on the agenda. Continue reading