Yes, women are going to jail for abortion. Right now. Wake up, Arizona Democrats.

23 Sep 2014 05:40 pm
Posted by: Donna

Katie Halperin of the New York Times interviewed the mother in Pennsylvania who is beginning a harsh prison sentence for obtaining abortion pills for her teenage daughter.

Whalen told me that in the winter of 2012, her daughter came to her and said she was pregnant. Whalen told her she would “support her in any decision she made.” Her daughter, who was in high school, took a few days to think and then asked her mother for help ending the pregnancy. “She said, ‘I can’t have a baby right now,’ and she asked me to look up clinics,” Whalen said.

Together, they looked online. The closest clinic was about 75 miles away. Pennsylvania requires women seeking abortions to first receive counseling and wait 24 hours before returning for the procedure. The cost of a first-trimester abortion is typically between $300 and $600. Whalen works as a personal-care aide at an assisted-living center for the elderly. She didn’t have health insurance for her daughter. And she was worried about taking time away from work and her family to make two trips or to stay overnight. At the time, Whalen and her husband shared one car, which they both used to get to work. And she hadn’t told her husband about the pregnancy. “I knew he would be upset, and I was protecting the whole family,” she said. (Whalen’s husband, who waited outside in the car during our interview, declined to talk to me.)
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Whalen called a local women’s center on her daughter’s behalf but was told no one there could help, she said. She and her daughter did more online searching, and a site popped up with misoprostol and mifepristone for sale for $45. Whalen hadn’t heard of the medication before. “I read all the information,” she said. “They said these pills would help give a miscarriage, and they were the same ones a doctor would give you.” She says she had no idea that buying them was illegal.

Anti-choice activists deny that women themselves will be prosecuted for abortion but Halperin notes that several cases of that have occurred, despite abortion being legal.

In the era before Roe v. Wade, the laws against helping with self-induction aimed to protect desperate women from dangerous procedures and unscrupulous providers. But the recent prosecutions of women are about something else. In many of these cases, women were charged after trying to end pregnancies that had advanced far into the second trimester, after fetal remains were discovered. For example, in a 2011 case from New York, a 20-year-old was charged with the misdemeanor of self-abortion in the first degree when the superintendent of her apartment building found a stillborn fetus in the trash. The district attorney later dropped the case. Nash’s list includes one person, other than Whalen, who went to jail: a 22-year-old mother of three in South Carolina who was sentenced to 90 days in 2005 after taking misoprostol about 16 weeks into her pregnancy.

Which means that anti-choicers are (shockingly!) lying about their punitive intentions toward women. Always have been. Some conservatives, like Ian Tuttle of NRO, seem to know the game is up and and are now advising women to just do what anti-choicers want so as to avoid be hurt or jailed.

One can sympathize with Jennifer Ann Whalen’s daughter’s panic, and with her mother’s desire to help. And perhaps Whalen broke the law not willfully, but on account of ignorance — in which case, perhaps her sentence is severe. Regardless, Whalen’s case offers no evidence that Pennsylvania legislators have done anything to endanger women. In fact, Whalen’s daughter would have been safer had her mother simply followed the law.

This is no longer in the theoretical realm. It is real. It’s only a matter of time before it’s happening in Arizona (if it isn’t already). So why aren’t voters getting a constant message about how Doug Ducey (and the other Republicans) will put women in jail for abortion? How many young women are going to sit out this election because no one scared the shit out of them about the very real possibility of being jailed for an abortion or even a miscarriage under an anti-choice Doug Ducey administration with an equally anti-choice Attorney General Mark Brnovich enforcing his agenda? Yes, ads telling women voters that Doug Ducey will put them in jail would be met with stern disapproval from the AZ Republic ed board but so what? If conservative gasbags aren’t outraged by your attack you’re doing it wrong.
Let them harrumph about a strong pro-choice message against Ducey et al like they are over the Gabby Giffords ads truthfully pointing out how Republican candidates embrace gun policies that lead to stalkers and domestic abusers getting guns easily and people ending up murdered.

Anti-choice laws lead directly to women taking matters into their own hands and facing death, injury, and/or prosecution. That is a fact. It does not matter that Roe v Wade is still technically the law of the land nor does it matter what Doug Ducey’s own intentions are. The Dems in Colorado aren’t afraid to run hard on reproductive rights. When are Arizona Dems going to catch up?

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