This Vt. Woman Believes Her Mom Would've Lived if She Had Access to Safe Abortions

Melinda Moulton’s mother died in the early 1960s, following pregnancies her family said she didn’t plan or want

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Vermont businesswoman is sharing a very personal and tragic family story — which she says could serve as a warning of what could happen if the U.S. Supreme Court does end up overturning Roe v. Wade.

Melinda Moulton of Huntington said she often wonders how much more time she’d have had with her mom, Arra Betty, if her mother could’ve accessed safe abortions in the 1950s and 60s.

"She had suffered a lot," Moulton said of her mother’s unplanned pregnancies. "She had no one she could turn to."

Moulton was just 12 when her mom died in 1962.

Moulton told NECN & NBC10 Boston that her aunt would later reveal that Arra Betty — who was divorced and already raising four kids on her own — had to be hospitalized after performing her own dangerous abortion in her bathroom at home in Pennsylvania. 

Then, a couple years later, Arra Betty hid another pregnancy, Moulton said, eventually going away to a secret facility to have that baby — and a hysterectomy. The family believed unqualified people oversaw a botched surgery that left Arra Betty with a deadly infection.

"At the end of the day, it cost her her life," said the longtime real estate developer, who is also an advocate for reproductive freedom.

As NBC News reported, the recently-leaked Supreme Court draft decision on Roe v. Wade indicates more than 20 states could be in a position to ban abortion.

"We’ll continue fighting for the unborn lives in our great state," Gov. Kay Ivey, R-Alabama, pledged this week.

"We do want to see the genocide of unborn babies ended in America," Rep. Todd Russ, a Republican state legislator in Oklahoma, said in a recent NBC News report about abortion policies in his state.

Moulton said Thursday she worries about the potential of a sharp rise in states that ban abortions in unsafe, unsanitary, back-alley procedures.

"Do we really want to go back there as a country?" Moulton asked rhetorically. "And if we do go back there, you’re going to see a lot more situations — many, many, many more situations — like my mom’s."

Experts acknowledged the chance of that in an NBC News report, but indicated the risk of maternal deaths from other medical problems during pregnancy may be greater — especially for people of color. 

Moulton, who has served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund, is supporting a proposed amendment to Vermont’s state constitution, which NECN & NBC10 Boston reported on earlier this week. Opponents, including the Vermont Right to Life Committee, are vowing to fight the measure in the lead-up to November’s election.

The ballot question would further guarantee everyone’s right in the state to decide when to use birth control, start a family, or see a provider to end a pregnancy on their own terms.

Contact Us