A Pro-Woman Response To The Problem Of Self-Induced Abortions

Anna Paprocki Staff Attorney, Americans United For Life
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If you only read the headlines this week, you could be tempted to believe that faced with safer conditions in Texas abortion clinics, horrified women decided to induce abortions at home rather than visit clinics required to maintain high medical standards. Even before getting into the fine print, the hyperbole in the “news analysis” strained credulity.

Yet here are the facts in the case: The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) published a study this week which concluded that self-induced abortion occurs but “is not common” in Texas. Perhaps confused by some biased speculation of the study authors, many media outlets have created a misleading impression that droves of women are now resorting to self-induced abortions as a result of Texas enacting health and safety standards for abortion clinics. Overstating the extent of the problem is the least of the concerns. The study shows neither correlation nor causation to the Texas abortion regulations, and the misplaced blame is resulting in suggestions that would only prove more detrimental to women.

Based on the survey answers of less than 800 women, the TxPEP study estimates that “between 100,000 and 240,000 women age 18-49 in Texas have ever tried to end a pregnancy without medical assistance.” In an article at the National Review Online, Dr. Michael New has outlined several methodological shortcomings of the study. The authors draw generalizations about a vast population from a small sample size. The survey question asked may have led to confusion about women who obtained RU-486 under medical supervision. Perhaps most significantly, the study presents no evidence that the number of self-induced abortion attempts has risen since the Texas health and safety laws went into effect.

The fact that some women try to self-induce abortions is certainly a problem that should be addressed. But a lowered standard of care that enables the abortion industry to profit from these women’s desperation with impunity is the opposite of a pro-woman solution.

A pro-woman solution would include better education about the harms inherent in abortion — both self-induced abortions and abortions at the hands of a “professional.” Women deserve to know the risks to their physical and mental health posed by self-induced abortions, as well as chemical and surgical abortions performed by an abortionist. That includes the known long-term risks to psychological health and future fertility.

A pro-woman solution would include offering genuine support for pregnant women. There are real problems that need to be addressed when pregnant women feel so desperate that they would resort to self-induced abortions. But poverty and fear are not eradicated by abortion, no matter how it is accomplished. The problems faced by women do not “go away” by allowing a substandard abortion clinic to move into town; they are perpetuated and exacerbated.

Mere access to a “professional” abortionist is not an assurance of quality of care. Kermit Gosnell was only one recent example of the decrepit conditions that appear to be pervasive throughout the abortion industry.

Contrary to the sanitized and almost saintly image Planned Parenthood tries to convey with self-given accolades like “trusted provider,” two nurses testified before the Delaware Senate in 2013 that the Planned Parenthood clinic they worked at in Delaware seriously jeopardized women’s health by providing “meat-market style” abortions.  Less than a year earlier, 24 year old Tonya Reaves died from a botched abortion at a flagship Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago. It is no secret that Steven Brigham, a “circuit rider” abortionist, has hurt women up and down the East Coast for decades.

In Texas and across the country, many legislators are responding to the health vacuum that was created by Roe v. Wade and has led to a systemic abuse of women. Putting a priority on women, not the profits of the abortion industry, they are enacting health and safety standards, such as requiring admitting privileges and requiring abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Abandoning these health and safety standards, as some of those promoting the TxPEP study suggest, only encourages more “back-alley” style abortion clinics.

It also bears remembering that among those who are misleadingly pushing the TxPEP study as an indictment of abortion clinic safety laws are the same usual suspects who regularly advocate for abortion drugs to be self-administered with less or no involvement of a doctor. These are the advocates who seek to eliminate in-person examinations by doctors before dispensing abortion drugs. These are the advocates who seek to eliminate required follow-up care. These are the advocates who push for life-ending drugs to be available over-the-counter and with no age restrictions. Increasing the number self-induced abortions is a goal for them, not a genuine issue of concern.

Self-induced abortion is a problem worth addressing. It should not be used as a pawn by the abortion industry to dismantle health and safety laws that cut at their profits. A pro-woman response, like the Texas health and safety laws that govern abortion “professionals,” places a priority on women. Education and support for pregnant women, not a lowered standard of care, are the pro-woman answer.

Tags : abortion
Anna Paprocki