Sherri Finkbine, now Sherri Chessen, 25 years after her
abortion. Some of you will remember that story.
It was back in 1962, and Sherri Finkbine, the wife of a teacher,
had recently returned with him from a European trip. While
there, she had some minor medical problems and had obtained
a drug for pain. What she did not know was that the drug
What almost no one knew in the United States at that time,
and was only beginning to come out in the press in Europe, was
that if this drug is taken between the 26th and 60th day after
conception, it could hinder the development of one or more of
the baby's arms and legs. In the most unfortunate cases
these babies were born with some of their limbs missing entirely,
some with only stumps.
Mrs. Finkbine had brought the pills back with her and,
at just the wrong time, had taken some of them. The story
of Thalidomide babies had shortly thereafter come to the attention
of her husband. Almost out of curiosity he had pursued
the story. Then it occurred to him that his wife had taken
some pills brought back in Europe. He found the empty
bottle, traced the number and information on it, and discovered
that she had taken Thalidomide.
They tried to arrange for an abortion, and it had been
tentatively agreed upon. A legal abortion was in the offing
at their Phoenix hospital. But then the story hit the
newspapers, the abortion was denied, and the whole thing became
a national sensation.
She ultimately flew to Sweden, had the abortion, and was
told afterwards that her three-month-old fetal baby had no legs
and only one arm. It's of interest to note that Thalidomide
children, aside from their limb malformations, are almost always
entirely normal otherwise, physically and mentally.
She returned to their home in Phoenix, but her life would
never be the same again. A previous job as a TV host was
not renewed. Her local doctor asked her to see another
physician. Some of her husband's students transferred
from his class, and his student assistant quit. Then,
finally she went on to have two children later.
Her young daughters, Jodi and Kristin, were featured with
her in the picture which began the feature story about her in
The Washington Post. It made much of the fact that these
two normal young ladies were achieving success in their own
The story in the Post then traced her present life.
She had divorced, is in a new career, and her children are grown
and gone except for one finishing high school. The gist
of the story was that if it all happened again, she would do
it again--but the story does indicate that she still entertains
some ambivalence about whether she was right or not.
In history, Sherri Finkbine will not be forgotten.
She is one of the reasons why we have legal abortion today.