I wondered what that spike in 1962 was about and discovered the story of Sherri Finkbine.
Finkbine was known as Miss Sherri on the local Phoenix, Arizona, version of the franchised children's show, Romper Room. The Finkbine Case began in London, England in 1961, when her husband was chaperoning sixty-four high school students on a European tour. He obtained some Thalidomide and carried the remainder home. Finkbine took thirty-six of the pills in the early stages of her pregnancy. Neither she nor her husband was aware, until July 1962, that the pills contained Thalidomide.
We remember Thalidomide, don't we?
It was never licensed in the US, so pregnant American women who took it got it while travelling, or like Mrs. Finkbine, from someone who had been abroad. As a result, there were very few Thalidomide babies born in the US. And presumably, there was little awareness of the horror stories.
The drug was legal in Britain, but as a result of the epidemic of birth defects it was withdrawn in late 1961.
Back to the wiki link:
Finkbine's physician strongly recommended that she obtain a therapeutic abortion, the only type of abortion that was permitted in Arizona at the time. Finkbine contacted a friend at a local newspaper to tell the friend her story, so that other women who were taking Thalidomide would be warned. Following the paper's publication of Finkbine's story, her scheduled abortion was canceled.
She wanted to warn other women. But she was punished by being denied a procedure strongly recommended by her doctor.
And oh look. There were wingnut fetish fetishists back then too.
A few letters included death threats, and the FBI was brought in to protect her.
She tried to go to Japan, where abortion was legal at the time, but Japan wouldn't grant her a visa. (More punishment for an uppity woman?)
Finally she went to Sweden and got permission there. And she was right to have done so.
The Swedish obstetrician who performed the abortion told Finkbine that the fetus had no legs and only one arm and would not have survived. Finkbine had another baby soon after, a healthy girl.
I was a kid at the time and so this story was nowhere on my radar, and, while Sherri Finkbine is well-known in the US as a supporter of reproductive rights, I'd never heard of her.
I googled some more and found this fetus fetishist site. From a post called 'Countdown to Roe: 1962' (emphasis mine):
Sherri Finkbine, host of Romper Room, goes to Sweden to abort a baby she suspects has been deformed due to her illegal use of Thalidomide. Sympathy for Finkbine leads to support for the idea of aborting babies who might have birth defects.
Not illegal when it was bought in Britain. But 'illegal' = her fault, the bitch.
Finkbine had originally arranged a quiet, legal abortion to be done in a hospital, but she decided to go public before the abortion, ostensibly to warn other women. How many women Finkbine thought were illegally using Thalidomide remains a mystery.
Nah, she probably went public with her abortion to promote her career as a kids' show host. (I loved Romper Room.)
But the fetus fetishist has the grace to admit that there were indeed severe defects.
Finkbine, then 30, is shown in BBC coverage smiling radiantly as she steps off a plane in London after her abortion.
Baby Murderer Smiles Radiantly!!!11!1
Then, surprise, more truth about the risk of birth defects: only
20 per cent. Only one in five? Only?
Same old story. Same old lies and spin.
Thank you, Sherri, for your courage.