DIY Abortions Are On The Rise Thanks To More Limited Abortion Access
One reason you should check out Glamour magazine’s new online series investigating the state of abortion access in America: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and literal feminist hero, recently gave it a shoutout. Another reason: It’s dropping some pretty fascinating truth bombs I, for one, wouldn’t have been aware of had I not read it. One of these is the terrifying yet not-so-terrifying reality that DIY (or self-induced abortion) is on the rise.
The magazine interviewed different abortion providers and women and found that most providers had heard of cases of self-induced abortions, and some had even worked with women who had unsuccessfully attempted to self-induce. In the state of Texas alone, about 240,000 women attempted an at-home abortion in 2015.
The reason DIY abortions are on the rise is pretty obvious — conservative, anti-choice legislation that limits women’s access to abortion. Glamour’s findings closely reflect those of Guttmacher Institute, which found unnecessary regulations that shut down abortion clinics under the pretense of making them safer for women (they’re already extremely safe, thank you very much), like waiting periods and mandated counseling that many women simply don’t have time for, tend to drive women seeking abortions out of state.
Ultimately, if women lack the means to travel out of state for an abortion, they have no other choice but to attempt a self-induced abortion. And, further, according to another study conducted by Guttmacher Institute in conjunction with the World Health Organization, the criminalization of abortion in different countries doesn’t really even affect the rates of abortion of these countries.
So, to restate the obvious, anti-choice laws don’t achieve anti-choice lawmakers’ goal of making abortion disappear. These laws simply delay or render abortion more dangerous. Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz told The New York Times earlier this year that while abortion rates decreased in states that had enacted various anti-choice regulations, live birth rates didn’t increase in proportion with this. There were “missing pregnancies,” according to Stephens-Davidowitz, “in parts of the country where it was hardest to get an abortion.” These missing pregnancies were most likely the results of self-terminations rendered necessary by heavy regulations on abortion in certain states.
The term “self-induced abortion” is, on the surface, pretty terrifying. It evokes images of historical coat hanger abortions, which often resulted in fatal injuries, sterilization, and even death and were utilized by impoverished women with no other options in a society where abortion remained illegal. But today, while the increased use of self-induced abortions is a disappointing commentary on the decreasing availability of abortion as a medical procedure at clinics (which are rapidly closing), we can all take comfort in the knowledge that these self-induced abortions are typically conducted through the use of abortion pills that are leagues and bounds safer than coat hanger abortions.
Women typically use misoprostol pills, which, used together with mifepristone (a drug that inhibits the hormones necessary for pregnancy), has a 97 percent success rate in safely ending a pregnancy. The only hitch is that it’s incredibly difficult to obtain mifepristone, so women attempting self-induced abortions with misoprostol pills usually have to go without the hormone-inhibiting drug, and on its own, misoprostol is only 80 percent effective.
Of course, there’s the added danger of facing arrest for attempting a purposeful miscarriage. Glamour reports 17 women just in recent years faced arrest for attempted self-termination despite abortion being legal on a federal level, because misogyny inherently requires that logic be damned, doesn’t it?
Despite this, the World Health Organization recently endorsed misoprostol pills as the best option for women in countries where abortion is severely restricted, and some medical experts like Francine Coeytaux, a principal investigator at the Public Health Institute in Los Angeles, believe misoprostol pills and mifepristone are safe enough and should be available over the counter.
But as Slate’s Nora Caplan-Bricker properly points out, if the political situation in America allowed over-the-counter misoprostol and mifepristone, it would probably also be conductive to abortion as a medical procedure, so “DIY abortion wouldn’t be necessary” and women “could simply go to the doctor.”
Alas, conservative governors and congressmen render such developments in women’s health and reproductive choice mere pipe dreams.