Judith Widdicombe, 45, a nurse-midwife, knows firsthand what it is like to have an illegal abortion.

When she faced an unplanned pregnancy in 1969 after forgetting to use her diaphragm, she and her husband decided to seek an illegal abortion. "We have two biological children and were in the process of raising three foster children, and it was clear that our family was complete. We also had a blood incompatibility and the doctors had said it would probably be best that I not get pregnant again," she said.

With her medical background, she found an abortionist with a good record--a medical technician who did the procedures in a Chicago apartment bedroom. But "it was a very scary situation . . . . It was all cloak-and-dagger because you made a phone call to an answering service. Then they called you and told you where they'd pick you up, and then they drove you around the city so that you'd get disoriented and no one could trace him."

"I was one of the fortunate ones," she recalled. Working in hospital emergency rooms, she had seen "women coming in who had attempted abortions with coat hangers and with lye and with some of the awful other things that they either used themselves or went to someone else. Oftentimes, we did not see them in the emergency room until they were near death."