Legal abortion is so “safe” in some places that women are resorting to DIY ones

19 Nov 2015 12:29 pm
Posted by: Donna

self induced abortion

Friday’s Supreme Court announcement was understandably eclipsed by the events in Paris but we pro-choice folks paid close attention to it. The court has agreed to hear a challenge to a passel of abortion restrictions passed in Texas in 2013 under the guise of “safety”. The Texas laws, which led to several clinic closures as intended, were the result of anti-choicers taking advantage of past court decisions allowing states broad latitude in regulating abortion prior to viability so long as their stated reason was to protect the health of women and that it did not place an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion. Arizona, being a red state run by raving misogynists, has passed similar laws, modeled on national templates.

If you think that solid scientific evidence should be required before forcing women (many of whom will have to drive long distances) to wait 24-72 hours before getting an abortion, or for claiming that abortion will increase her chances of breast cancer and depression, or for requiring clinics to be fully ambulatory surgical centers and doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals before one of the simplest surgical or medication procedures available can be done, then you don’t know anti-choice judges. The famously right wing 5th Circuit, which upheld the Texas law that will be decided by SCOTUS, found such considerations to be irrelevant:

The 5th Circuit, in upholding the Texas law, said that it did not consider a 300-mile round trip for nearly 1 million women of reproductive age to be a substantial burden because that number was “nowhere near” a large fraction of the state’s 5.4 million women of childbearing age.

The circuit court also said that under the Supreme Court’s prior decisions, it was required to defer to the state’s asserted “rational” justification for the law — protecting women’s health — even though that assertion is not supported by empirical evidence.

If the Supremes hold up that reasoning, then there is no limit to the barriers anti-choicers could put in front of women seeking abortions! Basically, safe legal abortion will be completely gone in much of the country. In Texas this is now a reality, with large swaths of the giant state having no abortion provider. Anecdotes of women taking matters into their own hands have been trickling in for months now.

“If a woman wants to abort, she’s going to abort,” says Lucy Felix, a Valley-based promotora, or health educator, at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

A native of Reynosa, Mexico, Felix has a short brown bob and a bellowing laugh. She wears a thin, gold necklace, a souvenir that a friend brought back from a Catholic trip to Israel. In the middle, a pendant spells out her first name in Hebrew. Blowing on a hot bowl of soup inside a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville, Felix explains the dilemma that many local women face since the crackdown on miso. Now, to get to the nearest abortion providers, they have to pass through la garita, or immigration checkpoints.

“So undocumented women, what can they do?” she asks, flinging her hands in the air. “They put things in their vagina. I’ve heard that women are using coat hangers or some are going to Mexico and getting clandestine abortions, where it’s dirty, unhygienic.” Felix gulps down a spoonful of broth. “Other women go to the flea markets. There are still places where you can get pills.”

McAllen’s Whole Women’s Health stopped providing abortion services after the admitting privileges provision went into effect and shut down entirely in March.

“It’s just the beginning,” the center’s former patient advocate, Luzevlia Carreon, observes. “It’s in demand right now. It’s what our patients are doing and they’re going to continue taking it. … The fact of the matter is that women are going to get pills and are going to figure out ways to have an abortion.”

University of Texas just put out a research paper on self-induced abortion in Texas and the findings are that a startling number of women in Texas may have attempted to end their own pregnancies.

Overall, 1.7% of women aged 18-49 reported that they had ever tried to end a pregnancy on their own. As noted above, since women tend to underreport abortion in surveys, this gives us a low estimate for the frequency of abortion self-induction in the general population.

When asked about their best friends, 1.8% said they were sure their best friend had done this, and an additional 2.3% said they suspected she had done this. This gives us a high estimate of 4.1% of adult women of reproductive age who have ever attempted abortion self-induction. By applying these proportions to the 5,949,149 women aged 18-49 in Texas, we estimate that somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women in this age range have tried to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance

This is what happens when abortion is illegal, or made so difficult to get that it might as well be. We pro-choicers have warned this would happen for years. Allies and people in the “mushy middle” have tended to brush the warnings aside while anti-choicers seem to consider women being physically harmed by DIY abortions or prosecuted for them to be an acceptable price for all the babies they believe will be “saved” from legal abortion. And it’s not like the bad things are going to happen to nice ladies they know, or so they think.

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