When did you start performing illegal abortions?
After 1981. I had been quick to learn the procedure during my residency.
Weren’t you afraid that you might be caught, and it would immediately end your career?
When they arrested me, they could tell me everything I had eaten for the previous two years. They knew everything about me, everything, despite all the measures I’d taken to protect myself. Yes, I was afraid. But what made me do this was my openly defiant spirit. I was doing this for a pack of cigarettes. Kent White, though they were not my favorite cigarettes.
How did you do it?
At first, I rented the instruments. They were hard to rent, and cost a lot of money. More precisely, when a curettage cost 7,000lei [at that time] renting [the instruments] cost 2,000 lei for 24 hours. You could do ten curettages during that time. As I didn’t take any money, the first women who I performed curettage on supported the cost of the instruments. I would ask them for money to rent the instruments.
Where did you rent them from?
There was a turner [a craftsman knowledgeable in metal and woodwork] who worked in a factory. He had made some rough instruments.
Had anyone else ordered them?
I wasn’t the only one renting from him. There were two of us in the hospital doing this. My colleague managed to find him. He was so scared that he didn’t want to reveal his source to me, so always used to go get the kit himself.
That turner could have denounced you to the authorities…
It would have been hard for him, because he really liked money.
Did you perform the first abortion with this rented kit?
Yes, the woman was four and a half months pregnant. A female acquaintance held the valve (a part of the curettage kit), an extremely disgusting occupation. I normally finish a curettage in about 10-12 minutes but for this one, I worked for about three and a half hours. I couldn’t stop cursing that I had started something like that.
I had crazy courage. At nearly five months’ old, the fetus’s skull is about this big [B.T. makes a circle] and you have to extract it through an even smaller hole. And then I did an absolutely criminal thing. I caught the uterine fundus [the uppermost part of the uterus], grabbed it with my left hand, and with the curette I located the skull and perforated it. Only the skull, because if I had pierced further, the woman would have died.
Why had that client called for a curettage so late in the pregnancy?
She hadn’t been able to find anyone [to terminate her pregnancy]. You couldn’t find people. It was extremely difficult to find a doctor. If I had known from the start how advanced the pregnancy was, I wouldn’t have accepted. I felt like I lost two years of my life that day. It was terrible.
Was the procedure done without an anesthetic?
For the first curettages, I managed to get mialgin, a clean opioid. I managed to get it for the first seven or eight curettages. I don’t remember the source anymore, but it certainly wasn’t from the hospital.
What disinfectant did you use for the instruments?
I would boil them for an hour. It could be at any pressure. I would arrive at the woman’s home and do this for an hour or so.
Did you always rent the kit? Or did you end up having your own kit?
I got my own kit. It was made by another turner who worked at the factory, August 23. A very bad kit. My God, such a bad kit! It was frightful to use. The curette wasn’t precise enough, so I had to work a lot with dilatation.
Can you be more explicit?
Dilation means enlarging the cervix area. It is the most painful process during curettage. Think about it: today, for a full two-months pregnancy I go with a dilation of up to a maximum of nine. Before, even if I had a five-week pregnancy, I had to go with 11. And it hurts like hell. And let me tell you something: the earlier the pregnancy, the harder it is to dilate. I didn’t have a small curette. It was so big that I had to go to 11 to insert the curette. That kit was really bad.
How did a turner know how to make such instruments?
A relative who knew some turners helped me. This person went to several turners, so as not to get caught. He asked for curettes from some, hegars (dilators used to induce cervical dilation) from others, and then he did some of the work himself. But I am sure everyone picked up on what was happening.
Where did you keep this personal kit?
In a closet.
Did you ever rent out your personal kit?
No, I was too scared. The only other person who knew was a friend of mine who occasionally came with me to hold the valve. I needed it. You can’t do a curettage on your own. If he couldn’t come, there would be people close to the pregnant woman [who would hold the valve]. It’s very disgusting. Many fainted. It’s extraordinarily aggressive in many ways.
We will have to ask you again to be descriptive, no matter how harsh the details.
Many of the women were not anesthetized. At some point I came up with the idea of doing local anesthesia in parameters. I entered with a long needle and did the anesthesia. It was relatively more bearable. A curettage is not at all pleasant, you know. It hurts like hell. But women knew how to bear it. Women are exceptionally resistant to pain. They have a high pain threshold. If it were me, I would have died a hundred times. And these women refrained from shouting, from making noise. I’ve never seen anything like it.
What social backgrounds did your clients have?
Totally random. I even had two from the top party level. Many came to me through acquaintances: ‘I know a doctor, let’s ask him’.
Did they ever come to you at the hospital?
Yes, sure. I would be on call [at the hospital] and they would come and ask me. I also performed abortions on policemen’s wives. I did one in my own home. It was the policeman himself, the husband of the woman, who came to ask me. From then on, every time the police took my driver’s license, the husband would come and bring it back. Another abortion I did in my own home was for a foreign student. She had no other place to go, she was living in a student hall.
Were you ever contacted by women who had attempted [to have an abortion] with someone who wasn’t a medical professional and the procedure had failed?
Yes, but I didn’t touch those cases because they were very risky. Most of them [the women] were digging at it, that was the term we used, they put plant stems inside themselves. The risk of death was very high.
Did you see cases of women coming to the hospital in such a condition?
At least once a day. Mortality was very high. Whoever says it wasn’t is lying. They came to the hospital either by ambulances or on their own two feet. They were all hospitalized as emergencies. And they were dying, so many of them were dying.
Doctor, how many illegal abortions did you perform before 1989?
110-120 terminations of pregnancy.
In what period did you do them?
1981-1987. In about six years.
Why did you stop?
I was arrested, and I didn’t like the days I spent in jail. They were very, very unpleasant for me. They detained me for an imaginary felony. Among my clients, I had some prostitutes to whom I offered medical services. They [the police] took in one of the prostitutes and she told them my name.