At Least 100,000 Texas Women Have Tried To Self-Induce An Abortion

Here’s some depressing news: a recent study run by the University of Texas has found that 1.7-4.1 percent of Texas women have attempted to perform an abortion on themselves — which, given the population of Texas, means about 100,000 to 240,000 women.

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The study, which focused on Texas women ages 18-49, found that 1.7 percent of them had attempted to self-induce an abortion, 1.8 percent knew for a fact that their best friend had attempted this, and 2.3 percent suspected she had. In total, 22 percent of women said either they had attempted to self-induce, definitely knew someone who had, or suspected they knew someone who had. These self-induced abortions were primarily done by taking herbal concoctions, illegal drugs, hormonal drugs like Misoprostol – which can induce an abortion and is available over the counter in Mexico – as well as self-injury.

There are several factors at work here, like the fact that women who live in border towns are able to travel to Mexico for Misoprostol, but the biggest is likely the extreme restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas, resulting in many women living further than eight hours away from a clinic. For them, a safe, legal abortion is just not an option.

The study also speculated that if the second portion of HB2 goes into effect, greatly reducing the amount of clinics in the state, there were be a far higher rate of self-induced abortions.

Over half of facilities providing abortion care in Texas have closed since 2013 due to the omnibus law known as HB2. If the final portion of HB2 goes into effect requiring all facilities providing abortion to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, the number of facilities will be further reduced from 18 to 10. Given that the populations we found to be most familiar with abortion self-induction are among those that have been most directly affected by the closure of abortion clinics in the state, we suspect that abortion self-induction will increase as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access. This hypothesis is further supported by international evidence, where legal restrictions on abortion tend to increase unsafe abortion, but do not reduce the overall incidence of abortion. Our estimates here provide a rigorous baseline measure of abortion self-induction to track this behavior moving forward.

The Supreme Court decided last week to hear a case that will likely determine whether or not many of the remaining clinics in Texas will stay open. If SCOTUS decides that the state is allowed to have a law that is disingenuous in spirit (by pretending like they’re trying to protect women’s health in an attempt to make it more difficult for them to obtain safe and legal abortions), then it is likely that even more women will turn to doing it themselves.

Many abortion opponents believe that if abortion is illegal that it simply won’t exist. That preventing us from having them safely and legally will prevent them from occurring at all, and that everyone will just throw up their arms and say “Welp! Guess I’m gonna have this baby I don’t want! Who’s in for a shotgun wedding?” But that’s not the case. It’s never going to be the case. It wasn’t the case before 1977, and it won’t be the case now. Women will seek out illegal abortions, they will try to self-induce, they will shove coat hangers into themselves, they will throw themselves down stairs, they will drink pennyroyal tea, and yes, some of them will die as a result. 

Some women will have the money to be able to travel to get an abortion safely and legally, just as they did before 1977 – because making abortion illegal or hard to get only actually makes it illegal or hard to get for poor women.

I get that these facts and statistics won’t matter to the kind of people who see fetuses as more deserving of life than the women carrying them. But I hope it ends up mattering to the Supreme Court.