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Did you know a Romper Room Host helped Abortion Reform?

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Back in 1962, Sherri Chessen, known then as Miss Sherri, hostess of Phoenix’s version of Romper Room, was having a challenging pregnancy fraught with morning sickness. Her husband a high school history teacher, while chaperoning a student trip abroad, purchased thalidomide, a German tranquilizer, hoping it would help.

Upon learning that thalidomide had been linked to births of thousands of severely deformed babies, Sherri made the most difficult decision in her life to terminate the pregnancy. Her physician agreed to do a therapeutic abortion, which prior to Roe V Wade, were only accessible to wealthy and well connected women.

As she prepared for the procedure, Sherri felt compelled to warn other would be mothers about the dangers of thalidomide. Promised anonymity, Sherri spoke to the Arizona Republic, however Sherri's name got leaked. Dewey Webb writes in Phoenix on April 1, 2015 "The hospital canceled the procedure, an Arizona Supreme Court judge declined to hear the case, the county attorney threatened prosecution, and Chessen’s doctor dropped her as a patient”.

It didn’t stop there, Sherri started receiving death threats and was constantly being stalked by mobs of reporters. FBI Agents investigated the death threats and escorted her children to and from school. Increasing publicity, with no other options, as abortion was illegal in the US Chessen, left for Sweden to have the most famous abortion of its time.

The Vatican condemned the Scottsdale mother, calling Chessen a “murderer". Upon returning from Sweden, Sherri told reporters “The vice president of the station called me in and told me I was ‘not fit’ to host a children’s program anymore.” Two years later, the television station hired her back to host a new show entitled “Here’s Sherri”; an afternoon talkshow aimed at housewives, which became wildly successful. When Chessen became pregnant again, producers forced her to do the show sitting behind a large desk prop. Sherri later joked that the desk was so big that “I could have given birth under it and no one would notice."

Years after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that paved the way for legal abortions, the lead attorney in the case personally congratulated Chessen for “making my job less difficult.”

Thalidomide was later banned by President Kennedy.

Want to learn more about Sherri Chessen.... who today in her 80’s still tells her story.....look for coverage on CBS Sunday Morning show aired July 3, 2022.

“A Private Matter” docudrama was created in 1992 by HBO staring Sissy Spacek

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